New Jersey’s All-offender Ignition Interlock Law Held Up: Christie Wants To Keep Suspensions

Last December this blog expressed hope that New Jersey would pass a proposed bill that would require first-time DUI offenders to use ignition interlock devices. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. The effect would have been to reduce the driver’s suspension time, allowing them to driver sooner but preventing them from drinking while doing so.

Alas, it was not to be. At least, not yet.

Governor Chris Christie halted the bill, stating that it was “too lenient.” Apparently the idea of a DUI offender driving after as little as 10 days’ suspension strikes him as an easy out for drunk drivers. Christie has proposed a change before he will consider signing the bill: first-time drunk drivers with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of between .08 and .10 must still undergo a 3-month suspension, after which time they would have the interlock device installed.

Is a long suspension followed by an ignition interlock the most sensible solution, as the Governor believes?

Not really. The sad fact is, suspensions don’t work very well on their own. One NTSB study found that about 75 percent of suspended drivers drove at least occasionally while suspended. That number would include those who tend to drink and drive.

By preventing a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, ignition interlocks help reduce alcohol-related crashes. No other measure comes close to interlocks in effectiveness.

In attempting to be tougher on drunk drivers, New Jersey’s governor has succeeded only in keeping more of them on the road – unlicensed and uninsured to boot.

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