Like many states, Pennsylvania has a drunk driving problem, particularly when it comes to repeat DUI offenses. According to data from PennDOT, 38% of people arrested for drunk driving in the state between 2011 and 2013 had at least one prior DUI arrest.
But officials, such as Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, are considering a few options for cracking down on DUI offenders, especially habitual offenders, once and for all. One of the options being considered is a tougher ignition interlock law.
Under Pennsylvania’s current DUI laws, only repeat DUI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer. Offenders must keep the device installed for one year. However, Stedman and some lawmakers think that the law could be tougher. For one thing, there’s a big loophole in it. Repeat DUI offenders aren’t required to install the device until their driver’s license suspension period is over, opening the door for offenders to drive on a suspended license. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), three out of four convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.
However, Sen. John Rafferty recently introduced a bill that would significantly improve Pennsylvania’s current ignition interlock law. Under proposed Senate Bill 1036, first-time offenders with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .10 or higher would be required to install the device along with all repeat offenders.
While the bill doesn’t close the current law’s loophole, it could significantly reduce repeat drunk driving offenses and drunk driving-related fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignition interlocks reduce repeat DUI offenses by two-thirds. Other states that require interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers have seen a decrease of at least 20% in drunk driving deaths. Arizona and Oregon have reduced DUI deaths by as much as 43% and 42%, respectively, since passing their all-offender interlock laws.