Rhode Island: Require Ignition Interlocks on School Buses

school busTwo Rhode Island  legislators have proposed a law that would keep children in their state safer on the way to and from school. The law would require all school buses to be fitted with ignition interlocks.

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

The school bus drivers would have to deliver a breath sample before starting the bus, and at periodic intervals while driving. The device ensures that the operator has not been drinking.

Currently ignition interlocks can be ordered for those convicted of drunk driving. Many states – the majority, in fact – require the devices to be installed in the vehicles of those convicted of any drunk driving offense, including a first offense.

ignition interlockThe devices are gaining widespread acceptance all over the world. Sweden requires them in truck fleets and government vehicles, in order to enhance public safety.

This is a new development, however, arising from a recent incident in which a school bus driver in Warwick was arrested on impaired driving charges.

Most of the public debate now going on concerning ignition interlocks is about mandating them for DUI offenses. If the bill co-sponsored by Rep. Charlene Lima and Rep. Robert Nardolillo becomes law, then the debate might shift to a new arena. Drivers, after all, make their own decisions, but children place their safety in the hands of adults, and it is up to parents and their proxies to ensure their safety. One way is to use technology to prevent drunk drivers from ever taking the wheel of a school bus.

We’ll be watching what happens in Rhode Island. It might signal a new battlefront in the war on drunk driving.