Last week, Oregon avoided an ignition interlock amendment that would have relaxed interlock requirements for first-time drunk driving offenders in the state. Killed by the Senate, the House bill would have made interlocks optional for first-time DUI offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.15 at the time of arrest and who were eligible for a diversion program. The device would be ordered at the judge’s discretion.
Considering that the state currently requires interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders, the proposed legislation was a big step backward. The state has also seen a 42% decrease in drunk driving-related deaths since requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers in 2008. Clearly interlocks are keeping people alive in Oregon, so why the step backward?
The bill was introduced as a way to save money. The point of diversion programs is to save court- and prison-related costs. However, Oregon is one of two states that still requires interlocks for all DUI offenders, even for those in diversion programs. By relaxing interlock requirements, the bill’s creators and supporters may have been trying to free up more resources.
Luckily, the Oregon Senate killed the risky bill proposal while simultaneously sending the message that interlocks keep people alive and will continue to be used to save lives in Oregon.