TRENTON – Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, issued the following statement regarding today’s news conference with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in support of his legislation – known as Ricci’s law – which would require first-time drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles:
“In July of 2006, Ricci Branca, a 17-year-old young man from Egg Harbor Township, was doing things that kids do during the summertime – enjoying time off from school and hanging out with his friends. He was a good kid who brought a lot of joy to his friends and family and had his whole life ahead of him.
“On July 14th, he was struck by a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content was more than four times over the legal limit. He died four days later as a result of his injuries.
“The drunk driver in question had previously been convicted of driving while intoxicated. If New Jersey had an ignition interlock law in place for first-time offenders, Ricci Branca would be here today.
“Since Ricci’s death, his parents, Sherri and Richard, and sister Adrienne, have become outspoken advocates for ignition interlock for all drunk-driving offenders. They have shown so much strength in the face of adversity, and have tried to turn their own personal tragedy into a chance to do what’s right for the State of New Jersey. I thank them so much for their continued advocacy, and pledge that I will continue to work until ignition interlocks for all drunk-driving offenses have become the law of the land.
“Research has shown that drunk-driving has some of the highest recidivism rates of any motor vehicle violation. If you drink and drive, and get away with it, you assume that it’s not a big deal, and are likely to do it again.
“But drunk drivers need to understand that every time you get behind the wheel while intoxicated, you’re loading a bullet into the chamber and playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. Maybe the gun didn’t go off this time, but eventually, tragedy will strike.
“If you get behind the wheel sober, you really don’t have anything to worry about with ignition interlock. It might be a little inconvenient to have to blow into a breathalyzer before you can start your car, but weighed against the alternative of driving while drunk, the inconvenience doesn’t even compare.
“For families like the Brancas and others in New Jersey which have experienced tragedy at the hands of a drunk driver, we need ignition interlock for all offenders. I urge the Senate to take up this bill as soon as possible, and urge my colleagues to make the right choice when it comes to protecting innocent people like Ricci Branca.”