Great Idea in Illinois: Exchange Hard Suspensions for Ignition Interlocks.

Ignition Interlocks are better than suspensionsDespite years of evidence that it is not effective, states continue to suspend the licenses of DUI offenders for long periods of time. For Illinois, the minimum is 30 days. Recently the state has taken a hard look at why this law – called the hard-time rule – doesn’t work.

One reason is common to all states: people tend to drive even though their license is suspended. Some studies put the figure as high as 75 percent. Moreover, those drivers are uninsured due to their suspension, and might be impaired if their DUI was the result of a real drinking problem.

The other reason is an Illinois specialty. In a number of suburban courtrooms, prosecutors are cutting deals with DUI attorneys to reduce charges so the offender avoids suspension.

As a result, the state collects sizeable fines, and DUI attorneys make fees as well. But as at least one DUI lawyer points out, it’s more complicated than a mere money grab: the situation is, in part, a logical response to the outmoded law itself. The hard-time suspension does no one any good, and can ruin lives.

At any rate, it’s clear the public loses either way. Neither the hard-time suspension nor reduced charges with fines helps take dangerous drunk drivers off the road.

The Illinois State Bar Association has proposed getting rid of the hard-time rule, allowing offenders to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles instead of suspension. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. As a solution, it’s more practical and sophisticated than the hard-time rule, a decades-old relic of an era when it was thought that letting drunk drivers sit at home for 30 days and think about they did would bring them to their senses.

Apart from the Bar Association, road safety organizations such as Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists and MADD support the change. We hope to see the state of Illinois move forward and embrace laws and technology that have been proven to make the roads safer.