TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Senator Nick Scutari that would revamp New Jersey’s DUI penalties to focus more on the use of ignition locking devices, which have proven to be highly effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses.
The bill, S-824, would increase the use of ignition interlock devices (IID) for those found guilty of driving under the influence. The ignition interlock is a small device wired to a vehicle’s ignition and requires a breath sample before the engine will start. If the IID detects alcohol on the driver’s breath above the legal limit, the engine will not start.
“This bill would move New Jersey away from driver’s license suspensions as the default penalty for offenders charged with drunken driving in favor of the use of IIDs,” said Senator Scutari, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Statistics have increasingly shown that ignition interlock devices have proven far better at reducing drunk driving. This is a better way of preventing offenders from getting behind the wheel if they are under the influence.”
Senator Scutari noted that about a third of all traffic fatalities in the state are attributable to drunken driving.
In order to more effectively prevent repeat drunk driving, the bill would make installation of an ignition interlock device preferred for first time offenders and required during the license suspension, as well as possibly for an extended period after the suspension. For first time offenders whose BAC is 0.08 or higher and less than 0.10 percent, the required period of installation would be three to six months; for a BAC of 0.10 percent or higher but less than 0.15 percent, the installation period would be seven months to one year; and for a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher the installation period could commence in addition to the license suspension.
The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety maintains that IIDs, when combined with a comprehensive monitoring and service program, lead to a 40 percent to 95 percent reduction in the rate of repeat drunk driving offenses among offenders as long as the IID remains on the vehicle. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that interlocks are effective in reducing re-arrest rates and sustained use of interlocks among people arrested for DWI could have a substantial impact on alcohol-related crashes.