New Jersey Becomes 34th State With All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law
TRENTON — The consequences of drunk driving are tragic, well known and still too common.
For years, advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have fought for stronger laws on the topic of alcohol abuse and enforcement on the roadways.
According to a news release from MADD, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation today that makes New Jersey the 34th state to require ignition interlocks for every drunk driving offender.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) thanks Governor Murphy for recognizing the importance of S 824, which was authored by Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblywoman Joann Downey. S 824 overwhelmingly passed the Senate and Assembly in June.
“This law represents the most significant DWI reform in New Jersey in nearly a decade,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was killed by a drunk driver while rollerblading on a bike path after school. “We are so grateful for all of the lawmakers, volunteers, staff and traffic safety partners who have worked for years to add New Jersey to a growing list of states that recognize all-offender laws like this one save lives.”
Since January 2010, Ricci’s Law required New Jersey judges to order all repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater to install ignition interlocks. Now, first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 or greater must get an interlock for a period of at least 30 days.
“Expanding the use of ignition interlock devices is just common sense,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “We must deter drunk driving without negatively impacting individuals’ ability to take care of themselves or their families. License suspensions are an imperfect tool for accomplishing both aims, as they do not stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and they can prevent ex-offenders from supporting their livelihoods. In contrast, ignition interlock devices prevent drunk driving while allowing ex-offenders to support themselves and their families.”
These small, in-car breathalyzers require a sober breath sample before the vehicle will start, and are the only technology available today that separate drinking from driving.
“Drunk driving is a serious issue in New Jersey, having prosecuted for 16 years, my experience is that the use of ignition interlocks is the best way to safe guard our roads but allow minor offenders to continue their employment,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union).
Senator Scutari and Assemblywoman Downey led the law through the legislative process.
“There’s strong evidence that interlock devices go a long way in reducing re-arrest rates when they’re installed in offenders’ vehicles,” said Assemblywoman Downey. “By requiring more drivers arrested for DUIs to install interlocks in their cars, we could see a substantial reduction in alcohol-related crashes. Traditionally, intoxicated drivers have also had to forfeit their driver’s license while penalized, which can keep them from getting to work or performing their duties. If that leads to the individual being fired, it’s not uncommon to see emotional consequences like depression, which can encourage even more of the substance abuse that led to the penalty in the first place. This law creates a more humane solution that’s also more effective in the long run, making New Jersey roads safer for everyone.”
Drunk driving killed 125 people on New Jersey roads in 2017. Studies show that states with all-offender interlock laws can reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent and drunk driving deaths by 16 percent.
“I was nearly killed by a drunk driver during my senior year at The College of New Jersey, and I know the anguish this violent, preventable crime inflicts on survivors and family members,” said Steven Benvenisti, Esq., Partner at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, a former MADD National Board Member, longtime MADD New Jersey volunteer, who has worked for years to pass an all-offender interlock law in New Jersey. “In 2018, ignition interlocks kept 13,500 drunk drivers off our roads. Now this lifesaving technology will be used to its fullest potential.”
MADD strongly supported the legislation by Scutari and Downey as part of its national campaign to pass interlock laws that apply to all drunk drivers. All-offender laws have been MADD’s No. 1 legislative priority across the country since the 2006 launch of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. At that time, only one state, New Mexico, had such a law.
New Jersey is the second state this year to pass an all-offender law; in March, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed that state’s all-offender legislation into law. All-offender legislation is pending in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, and California.
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 nearly 380,000 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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