An ignition interlock bill signed into law by Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee last week takes the state one step further toward eliminating drunk driving. While the drunk driving law doesn’t require ignition interlocks for all drivers, it significantly extends interlock use among convicted DUI offenders.
Ignition interlocks are not required for any drunk driver under Rhode Island’s current DUI laws. However, a judge may order repeat offenders to install the device for 1 to 2 years after a second conviction or 2 years after third and subsequent convictions.
The new drunk driving law, which takes effect on January 1, 2015, will require ignition interlock installation for all repeat DUI offenders, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.15, and offenders who repeatedly refuse BAC tests.
While the law does not require first-time DUI offenders with a BAC below 0.15 to install the device, it does allow judges to order interlock installation for such offenders so that they can drive to and from work, school, and/or alcohol treatment. The law also requires third-time DUI offenders to participate in alcohol or drug treatment.
Bill sponsors Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski and Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. are hopeful that the new law will save lives in Rhode Island and reduce repeat offenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states with interlock laws have seen a two-thirds reduction in repeat DUI offenses. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) further reports that states with all-offender interlock laws have reduced DUI-related fatalities by 30% to over 40%.
Car Breathalyzer Help applauds Rhode Island legislators for taking this significant step toward eliminating drunk driving. The next step? Requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. If a federal bill presented to legislators in Washington, D.C. earlier this week becomes law, Rhode Island and other states without all-offender interlock laws could be taking that next step sooner than we thought.