In New York, Ignition Interlock Laws Work – But the Enforcement Doesn’t.

ignition-interlock-laws-must-be-enforcedLeandra’s Law was a milestone in New York’s fight against drunk driving. The 2010 law states that anyone convicted of DWI in that state must install an ignition interlock, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver fails to pass a breath test.

Leandra’s Law is named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed while riding with her intoxicated mother.

Ignition interlock laws are proven to work, and alcohol-related fatalities drop when the devices are used. So where’s the problem in New York?

The problem is that the ordered interlocks aren’t being installed. An audit by the Office of the State Comptroller found that the rates of installation range from about half in Rensselaer County to an abysmal 8 percent in Franklin County, which is upstate near the Canadian border.

ignition-interlock-laws-prevent-drunk-driving-crashesSome of those offenders do not have vehicles registered in their names, but in many more cases it’s a case of lax enforcement: the DMV and probation officers are not doing follow-up checks to ensure that the ignition interlocks are installed.

This neglect is a betrayal of citizens who count on their governments to keep drunk drivers off the roads. It is a disservice to legislators who work hard to pass ignition interlock laws, only to see them subverted by nonexistent enforcement.

It’s also worth noting that the interlock is sometimes meant to replace other measures such as imprisonment . When the interlock is installed, this works well, allowing the offender to get on with his or her life while protecting the public. When the interlock is not installed, it means that effectively nothing is being done to keep the offender from drinking and driving again.

The auditors have made some recommendations to better enforce Leandra’s law. Essentially, these entail making sure that when an ignition interlock is ordered, an ignition interlock is installed. That’s what the New York signed on for, and that’s what the people of New York State deserve.