By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
May 16, 2013
RALEIGH — Lost your license because of drinking and driving? If you want to get back behind the wheel in North Carolina, you might want to start learning how to use an ignition interlock device. At least that’s the hope of sponsors of a bipartisan bill that would require the device installed on any car to be driven by anyone convicted of an impaired driving offense.
“Research shows that up to 75 percent of drunk driving offenders drive illegally after a DWI arrest and license suspension,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League and President of the American Council on Alcohol Problems (ACAP). “It also shows that when these devices are installed on an offender’s vehicle, rates of drunk driving are reduced by up to 64 percent.”
“This is a common sense bill that puts technology to use to help protect not only the potential drinking driver but all those whom he might meet on the road,” Dr. Creech added.
ACAP recently passed a resolution encouraging states to require ignition interlock devices on vehicles of all first-time offenders convicted of DWI.
Installed on a car’s dashboard, the interlock device will not allow the car to start unless the driver breathes into it and the blood alcohol concentration of his breath is under the programmed limit. After the vehicle is started, the mechanism will, at random times, require another breath sample, so that drivers cannot have a friend breathe for them or crank up sober and then proceed to get drunk. If a breath sample isn’t provided or an illegal alcohol level is detected, the device will activate an alarm — lights flashing, horn sounding, etc. — until the ignition is turned off or a clean breath sample is provided.
ACAP called the ignition interlock device a “more than promising tool in the battle against drunk driving” and pointed out that it will cost much less than incarceration or electronic monitoring.
According to the bill, H 536 – Ignition Interlock Req’d/All DWIs, drivers ordered to use the system would be responsible for costs of installation and monitoring. A fund would be set up for the indigent. Anyone who removes or disables the device would risk having his license revoked for a year.
According to the ACAP resolution, every day in the United States as many as 28 people die as a result of a drunk driving crash, and drunk driving cost the nation approximately $132 billion a year.
“This bill could help lower both those numbers and would still allow folks who have made a mistake to stay on the road, as long as they drive sober,” Dr. Creech said. “We hope lawmakers see the benefits and pass this beneficial measure that ACAP recommends.”
House Bill 536, sponsored by Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford), Rep. Darren (D-Wake) and others, earned a favorable report from Judiciary Subcommittee B and has been referred to the Committee on Finance.