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Interlock Ignition Legislation Meets Opposition from Group

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 09 Apr 2013 02:43pm | comments

One of the biggest changes to Mississippi's DUI laws in more than a decade is being challanged by an industry group. The American Beverage Institute (ABI) is asking Governor Phil Bryant to veto the bill.

State lawmakers overwhelmingly supported house Bill 481, which could require any Mississippian convicted of a DUI to install a device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has alcohol on his or her breath.

That bill would be a major mistake according to Sarah Longwell with the American Beverage Institute.

Longwell says interlocks are expensive, intrusive and unenforceable in addition to treating all drunk driving offenders the same.

 "So it is essentially a law without teeth. So what we would like to do, because we all have a vested interest in getting hardcore drunk drivers off the road, is see our scarce resources being applied to the high BAC and repeat offenders that cause the vast majority of alcohol related fatalities," Longwell said.

 Longwell compares the law to punishing all drivers the same for speeding whether they are going 5 or 50 miles over the speed limit.

 "This is the most significant piece of drunk driving reform legislation passed by Mississippi lawmakers since 2002," says Frank Harris with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a vocal supporter of the bill. 

 Harris says interlocks have helped lower the drunk driving rate in other states after old approaches to punishing drunk drivers have stopped working.

 "With license suspension alone,  it is a hope for the best mentality that this driver is not driving on a suspended license. But most likely, and the studies show, that up to 75% of DUI offenders drive on a suspended license. So with an ignition interlock, the offender is taught to drive sober and it is proven more effective in preventing repeat offenses," says Harris.

 14 other states currently have mandatory interlock laws.

 The bill has high profile support from the speaker of the house whose parents and sister were killed by a drunk driver.

 Governor Phil Bryant says he intends to sign the bill into law.  If signed into law, it would take effect July 1st of next year.

 

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