MADD Urges Passage of Law Requiring Ignition Interlocks for All Offenders

Legislation has been pending in Senate since 2007
Rep. Tim Whelan joined with Marykate DePamphelis (Massachusetts MADD Program Director) and Sarah Carmichael (a victim of a violent drunk driving crash) to testify before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of H.1580. (Rep. Whelan photo)

BOSTON - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) called on lawmakers in the House and Senate this week to pass a law that would require ignition interlocks for all first-time drunk driving offenders and help stop the devastating crime that accounted for a third of all traffic deaths in Massachusetts in 2018.

MADD testified before two legislative committees -- the Joint Judiciary Committee on Nov. 5 and the Joint Committee on Transportation on Nov. 6 -- in support of S 2137 and H 1580. Gov. Charlie Baker's traffic safety proposal S 7 also calls for an all-offender law.

"All-offender interlock legislation has been pending in the Senate since 2007,"  said Mary Kate Depamphilis of MADD Massachusetts. "It is past time for lawmakers to pass it, and we call on them to get it done this year."

The state's current law requires interlocks only for repeat offenders and lags behind New England and the nation. Massachusetts is the only state in the country that does not allow for interlocks for first-time offenders and one of just 16 states that do not require it. 

"We know that first-time offenders are serious offenders. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that first-time offenders have driven drunk at least 80 times before they're arrested," Depamphilis said. "MADD is grateful to Senate Leader Bruce Tarr and Representative Tim Whelan for authoring this lifesaving legislation."

Interlocks, or in-car breathalyzer devices, require drunk driving offenders to provide a sober breath sample in order to start their vehicles. They are effective in reducing drunk driving offenses by 67 percent while the device is installed compared to license suspension alone, and they help reduce repeat offenses by 39 percent compared to offenders who never installed an interlock. 

S 2137 and H1580 would expand ignition interlocks to first-time offenders and replace hardship licenses for alcohol-related OUIs with ignition interlock restricted licenses. Other provisions of the bills include:

  • Replacing the lifetime suspension for a 5th OUI with an ignition interlock license that the offender can apply for upon completion of a jail sentence
  • Allowing a person with a 180-day suspension for refusing a breathalyzer to apply for an ignition interlock license
  • Requiring drivers to have a "clean" record within the six-month period prior to a request for removal
  • Establishing an indigent program for individuals who demonstrate serious financial hardship to receive the device and associated services at 50 percent of the total cost.

"Interlocks are the only technology we have today that separate drinking from driving, and they're working," Depamphilis said. "Interlocks have prevented more than 39,000 attempts to drive drunk in Massachusetts over the last 12 years -- and they're only required for repeat offenders. Can you imagine how many more drunk drivers we could stop with an all-offender law? This legislation is not weak on drunk drivers. It is not harsh, either. It is the right approach to protect the public from these preventable tragedies."

Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster), author of the bill, offered his thoughts, "I filed this bill, which aims to offer first time OUI offenders an opportunity to have their driving privileges restored early with a license restriction that they only operate vehicles with ignition interlock devices to ensure sobriety behind the wheel. 49 states have this on the books, Massachusetts is the only state that does not. It’s time for Massachusetts to join every other state in the nation and help reduce the incidence of drunk driving."

Read the bill at this link: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H1580

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 350,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.


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