New Mexico Votes to Boost Financial Aid for Ignition Interlocks
New Mexico is determined to stay ahead of the pack in its efforts to combat impaired driving. Back in 2005 the state was the first to adopt mandatory ignition interlocks for al drunk driving offenders. That meant that anyone convicted of drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or over would have to use an an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Now the state has increased its financial aid for ignition interlocks. Both chambers of the legislature have passed the Indigent Interlock Fund Act, House Bill 203. The bill increases the amount of money available to those who cannot afford to install and maintain an ignition interlock in their vehicle.
One of the advantages of interlock devices is that the offender is the one who pays to keep the public safe. This makes the devices a preferable alternative to imprisonment and probation, which are costly. But it has been noted that the fees associated with the device – generally around $75 to $100 per month – are too expensive for some offenders. The answer is for the state to have an indigent interlock fund to help those who require an ignition interlock but who can’t afford one.
A few states currently have indigent funds for ignition interlocks, but not nearly enough. The desirability of such a fund is clear: ignition interlocks are the only anti-drunk-driving measure which actually prevents drivers from taking to the road if they are impaired. License suspensions are notoriously ineffective: the majority of offenders with suspended licenses drive despite having no license.
Moreover, fines and community service might deter some offenders, but they can’t actually stop the car from moving if the driver is drunk. Only an interlock can do that. For that reasons, it’s vital that states support interlocks, and that means making sure that offenders who can’t afford them can still get them.
New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, is already known for promoting aggressive measures to combat drunk driving. When she felt the legislature was moving too slowly, she introduced her own DWI initiatives by executive action. Financial aid for ignition interlocks is a logical step in her plan.
The indications, then, are that Governor Martinez will sign the bill and remove a significant barrier that exists for many DWI offenders who are financially pressured. The result will be more compliance with the law, and more lives saved on New Mexico’s roadways.