Oregon Kills Anti-Interlock Amendment To Keep Drivers Alive

This week Oregon narrowly escaped a law that would have relaxed mandatory ignition interlock requirements for first-time DUI offenders.  House Bill 4026 tanked in the State Senate, and won’t go to a vote this session.

gavelThe  bill would have made interlocks optional for some drivers convicted of a DUI, provided they were eligible for a diversion program and had a blood alcohol level less than 0.15 at the time of arrest. Right now Oregon DUI laws mandate ignition interlocks for all first-time offenders.

The motive for the change was to save money. Diversion programs are designed to lessen the strain on courts and prison, allowing the legal system to focus on more serious criminal cases.  But Oregon is one of two states that require interlock devices for all DUI offenders, including those in diversion programs. Presumably fewer interlocks would have freed some resources.

Members of the House vowed to fight the proposal, which Oregon representative Jim Thompson called “a big step backward.” Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) opposed the amendment as well. Frank Harris, MADD’s state legislative affairs manager accused the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee of “playing some risky business with public safety.”

MADD points out that alcohol-related road deaths dropped 42 percent after Oregon began requiring interlocks in 2008. By rejecting of House Bill 4026, Oregon legislators have sent a clear message: ignition interlocks keep drivers alive.