The Interlock at 22: A Safety Success StoryPart 3: Robert J. Letourneau
Law-abiding drivers in New Hampshire have a friend in Robert J. Letourneau who, as Coordinator of the New Hampshire Department of Safety’s ignition interlock program, is helping to keep drunk drivers off the state’s roads.
Much of Letourneau’s career has been spent on behalf of road safety. As a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and then the State Senate, he worked on the legislation that created the interlock program.
Ignition interlocks, says Letourneau, are vital to the fight against impaired driving. Like many interlock proponents, he finds license suspension inadequate as a public safety measure. “If you suspend them and don’t put an interlock in, they’ll just keep driving without a license.”
The devices have gained acceptance in New Hampshire, thanks in part to Letourneau’s work educating the legislature on the program and improving the legislation. He also monitors the performance of interlocks and familiarizes law enforcement and judicial personnel with the program.
The interlock remains for Letourneau the prevention method of choice. Abstinence programs “may be helpful but the interlock is the answer, because at the end of the day, if they don’t have an interlock in the car, they will drink and drive. “
New Hampshire’s DWI laws can still be strengthened, and Letourneau is working on that. Recently he has been promoting a bill outlining a new uninstall protocol.
“We found that people were uninstalling their interlocks after their year was over, despite violations (recorded breath test failures). We needed to be able to tell them they can’t remove the device until they have been violation-free for a certain amount of time.” The new bill lets offenders remove the device only after 120 days without a violation. Other offenses, such as driving without an interlock, and trying to tamper with or circumvent the device, will also result in extended interlock time.
The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature. When it is signed, it will mark another milestone in New Hampshire’s fight against drunk driving, a fight Robert Letourneau is helping his fellow citizens win every day.
This is Part 3 of the series The Interlock at 22: A Safety Success Story.