Gov. Wolf Signs PA Ignition Interlock Bill. Change Is Good.

PA ignition interlock bill signedOver the last couple of years we’ve been giving Pennsylvania a hard time. We chided the state for poor DUI enforcement, and for a whack loophole that allows parking valets to hand keys to inebriated drivers.

But this week Pennsylvania deserves praise for passing a long overdue law that will save lives and make its roads safer. Governor Tom Wolf just signed a measure that makes the state’s ignition interlock program available for first-time DUI offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Up to now, interlocks were used only for repeat DUI offenders, who had to blow into a device before starting their vehicle. The device logs the tests and sends the data to monitoring authorities. Research has shown that requiring interlocks for first-time offenders greatly reduces alcohol-related crashes and deaths. Maryland became the most recent state to require the devices for all DUI offenses over .08 BAC.

Where the New PA Ignition Interlock Law Helps

Thanks to the new PA ignition interlock law, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or above will be eligible to install an ignition interlock. This is important for two reasons:

  • An ignition interlock is the only measure that actually prevents drunk drivers from getting on the road and endangering themselves and others. Most other measures are punitive, and are not guaranteed to prevent recidivism.
  • A number of people who drive drunk need help, and they are better able to obtain it if they have driving privileges. It’s hard to help people get their lives together if they can’t drive to work or school or obtain counseling or treatment.

Where the New Law Falls Short

The trend sweeping the country is for states to require ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders with a BAC of .08 or higher. The .08 number is accepted by all states as the legal limit for intoxication. However, the Pennsylvania ignition interlock law is an outlier because it uses a BAC of .10 as the limit when considering the devices for first offenders. So the state does not follow Maryland as the 27th state to pass the all-offender law that MADD and others have advocated.

Still, it’s good work, and the law will keep a lot of drunk drivers from reoffending. And that will prevent injuries and save lives. All in all, a good day’s work for the Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Wolf.