Delaware lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that could strengthen the state’s DUI laws.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 212 would require all convicted DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles. Similar to a breathalyzer, the device tests the driver’s blood alcohol level and does not allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking.
Under the terms of the legislation, a first-time offender would be required to use the interlock device for a minimum of four months.
“The ultimate goal is to keep drunk drivers off the road,” said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South. “The facts show that ignition interlock devices work to reduce drunk-driving recidivism, and fewer drunk drivers mean fewer drunk driving fatalities. I am hopeful that we can pass this bill and continue to protect motorists from impaired drivers.”
In 2011, Gov. Jack Markell signed a package of new DUI reform bills into law, which included steeper penalties for repeat offenders. As a result, DUI was classified as a third-degree vehicular assault, with mandatory treatment for some offenders.
In Dover, the bill recently passed the Public Safety and Homeland Security committees. Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving were on hand to advocate for the legislation.
“Ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers is really the key in saving lives,” said Jan Withers, national president of MADD.
Withers told the Delaware Senate that 22 states currently ignition lock requirements, with some of those states experiencing 30 to 40 percent decreases in traffic fatalities.
“Can you imagine,” she asked, “literally cutting the deaths in half by having ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers?”