In Iowa, a Heroic 97-0 Vote Supporting Ignition Interlocks for OWI.

 In Laws, News

Hero: Signers of Iowa ignition interlock billIowa lawmakers showed what they were made of last week. The Iowa House voted unanimously to adopt a law requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Heroic? That’s no exaggeration. Ignition interlocks save lives – the research has been done on that point. Any vote to put the devices on offenders’ cars and trucks keeps drunk drivers off the road.

The House approval of the Iowa ignition interlock bill makes a change in direction for the legislative body, which has in the past resisted mandating interlock devices for all offenders, despite a great deal of evidence that the approach works to reduce alcohol-related crashes. Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, has made drunk driving legislation a priority, and so many recent reports have added to the evidence in favor of an all-offender law.

The language in the bill avoids a loophole, one which has caused trouble in other states, by which an offender can drive someone else’s vehicle to avoid using the interlock-equipped one. The bill states:

The department shall require the defendant to install an ignition interlock device … on all vehicles owned or operated by the defendant if the defendant seeks a temporary restricted license.

Ending Needless Hardship. Preventing Needless Deaths.

The law also allows the defendant to drive for any reason. Formerly those who were issued a restricted license after an OWI could only drive to and from home and place of employment, health care providers, educational institutions or parole offices. The result was undue hardship, particularly in rural Iowa, where a vehicle is often necessary to make a living.

The idea of the Iowa ignition interlock bill is to restore the offender’s freedom, but ensure that he or she is sober. This approach makes more sense than the previous one. Limiting the places one can drive to is a punitive measure, but even if it can be enforced, it will not in itself keep a driver from drinking if he or she chooses to.

The ignition interlock, on the other hand, is the only method of ensuring that a person who is intoxicated will not take the wheel.

If the Senate shows a similar commitment to public safety and passes the bill, then the law will take effect from July 1. From that date on, all OWI offenders will have to take stock of their actions and prove to the state that they can drive sober, or fact the consequences. It’s a solution that has worked in many other states, and it will work in Iowa.

Not all heroes are flamboyant. They don’t even have super powers. But they fight crime and save lives by showing up and voting with their brains and their consciences. And for that, we salute the Iowa House and Governor Reynolds.

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