Perhaps pressure is mounting because more states are considering requiring ignition interlocks for first OVI offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
In Ohio, such a bill was debated in the Ohio legislature last December. Named Annie’s Law, after Annie Rooney, a lawyer who was killed by a drunk driver in Chillicothe.
Why all offenders? An ignition interlock is an unusual kind of measure to require after a drunk driving offense. It is preventative, not punitive. By preventing a vehicle from starting if the driver fails a breath test, it effectively takes a drunk driver off the road.
There are three factions who tend to resist the idea of ignition interlocks for first OVI offenders:
- Those who feel it is too severe a punishment for first offenders who, after all, have just made one mistake. In fact, statistics show that by the time of his or her first arrest, a driver has driving drunk about 80 times.
- Those who feel it is not severe enough. Some citizens and legislators feel that letting a driver get back behind the wheel just weeks after a drunk driving conviction is too easy; their license should be suspended for a long period instead. The problem is that suspensions don’t work. More than half of drivers with suspended licenses ignore the suspension, sometimes multiple times. And that puts an uninsured and possibly impaired driver back on the road
- The liquor and restaurant lobby. Organizations charged with increasing the profits of distilleries, breweries, wineries and chain restaurants will fight any restrictions on alcohol use.
States that have passed laws like Annie’s Law have seen dramatic downturns in impaired driving collisions and deaths.
Currently, half the states in the country mandate ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, with Texas the latest addition to the list. It would be a feather in Ohio’s cap for the legislature to pass Annie’s Law and become the 26th state to protect its citizens so thoroughly on its roads and streets.