Lawmakers send ignition interlock bills to governor’s desk for signature
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly passed legislation tonight authorizing judges and magistrates to prohibit individuals adjudicated of driving under the influence from operating vehicles that are not equipped with ignition interlock systems.
An ignition interlock system is a device wired to a vehicle’s ignition that requires a driver to breathe into the device – just as one would with a Breathalyzer – prior to starting the vehicle. The system prevents a motorist from being able to start his or her car if it detects alcohol on the breath of the driver.
Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) on behalf of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, the legislation (2014-S 2231A, 2014-H 8296) also establishes updated rules, regulations, fines and penalties for the continued enforcement of the ignition interlock system.
“I have been fighting for this legislation for years because I believe these devices have the power to save many lives,” Senator Sosnowski said. “In fact, ignition interlock systems have been proven to make a difference in recidivism rates. We talk about building a better, safer Rhode Island, and this is the legislation that’s going to play a large role in that. When I read that young drivers have a greater risk of dying in a car crash after consuming alcohol than adults, the statistic didn’t entirely surprise me. But as we send this legislation to the governor for his signature, that is the fact that sticks out in my mind. We are protecting our children, our relatives, and our friends. Even if we can save one life with a better law, this has all been worth it.”
Representative Gallison added, “It’s time Rhode Island implements a law with more accountability. We have seen too many people die at the hands of drivers with seriously impaired judgment due to alcohol or drugs. What’s worse is that it sometimes takes a life-altering accident for repeat offenders to realize the risk they truly pose when they drink and drive. Our state should not allow room for that risk, and I commend my colleagues in the Senate and the House for pushing this bill.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found states that passed interlock laws saw an average two-thirds reduction in repeat DUI offenses. Rhode Island is now poised to emulate at least 20 other states across the country that have put similar measures in place. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – a national nonprofit with a mission to prevent drunken driving and underage drinking – has also supported the implementation of ignition interlock laws across the country.
“Despite increased enforcement and prosecution, too many people continue to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol,” Attorney General Kilmartin said. “Stripping an individual of his or her license for three or six months is not always a deterrent from them offending again. Allowing the courts the ability to order the installation of the ignition interlock system as a condition of a DUI sentence is in the best interest of public safety, as it will help to ensure that DUI offenders do not get behind the wheel of their motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, endangering others on our roadways.”
Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) cosponsor of the Senate bill. Representatives Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren), J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) serve as cosponsors of the House bill.
For more information, contact:
Brenna McCabe, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903