Last Tuesday members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other concerned citizens held a press conference at the General Assembly in Raleigh. The purpose was urge the North Carolina Legislature to pass a law requiring first DWI offenders to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles. Ignition interlocks, or car breathalyzers, prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
It’s a story that those who follow road safety have heard before, all over the country. Currently North Carolina requires interlock devices for repeat offenders or first offenders who are extremely drunk at the time of arrest. The law, SB 619/HB 877, would mandate interlocks for anyone convicted with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more.
It sounds extreme to some – after all, aren’t people entitled to one mistake? – but statistics tell us that a first DWI arrest comes after an offender has driven impaired about 80 times. License suspensions don’t work – every year tens of thousands of North Carolinians are picked up for driving without a license. Ignition interlocks are they only means of ensuring that a driver does not get behind the wheel while drunk.
Recently Texas was the 25th state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. Perhaps North Carolina will be the one to tip the balance and make such states a majority in the union.
Police departments and road safety advocates are on board with such laws. It’s up to the North Carolina Legislature now. Let’s hope they pass a bill that will save many lives in North Carolina, year after year.