D.C. Gets an All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law

washington-dc-ignition-interlock-lawIf you’re tracking the growing number of states that require ignition interlocks for first DUI offenses, that number hasn’t changed – but only because Washington D.C. is not a state. The District that is our nation’s capital has joined the 28 states that have an all-offender ignition interlock law. Neighbor Maryland passed its law just this May.

That law was called Noah’s Law, after Officer Noah Leotta of the Montgomery County Police, who was killed by a drunk driver.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

It’s worth recapping the benefits of an all-offender ignition interlock law. Many states (no longer a majority, though) mandate an ignition interlock for a second or subsequent DUI offense. Some states do not mandate them at all, but leave it to the judge’s discretion.

Ignition Interlocks – A Unique Protection

The problem with this approach is that it allows too many drunk drivers the chance to repeat their crime. Punishments such as fines and even jail time may deter some people, but they won’t stop a determined drunk driver – one who has a serious alcohol problem. Only an ignition interlock can do that, by incapacitating the vehicle of the would-be drunk driver.

There are those who object to requiring first-time DUIs to use interlocks. They prefer them to be used by repeat offenders. But the fact is that all-offender ignition interlock laws bring down the number of alcohol-related road deaths. They are a minor inconvenience to an offender who stays sober behind the wheel, and they are a life saver for those who tend to drink and drive.

While D.C. is not terribly large – its population numbers sit between Vermont and North Dakota – it faces the same drunk driving problems as the US states do: about a third of its road deaths are alcohol-related. All of those are preventable, and will be prevented when D.C.’s new ignition interlock law takes effect.