Pennsylvania’s Ignition Interlock Bill Follows National Trend

pennslvania-ignition-interlock-billMaryland has just signed their law. Vermont will do so any day now. Other states have bills in session, or have delegations of experts speaking to legislators right now, advocating this life-saving law. Altogether 26 states have a law requiring ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, and the number will soon be 27. The national trend is clear.

Now it’s Pennsylvania. Last Monday the House of Representatives voted to extend the use of ignition interlocks to all offenders convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or more. On Wednesday the Senate followed suit – with a unanimous vote!

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. States which mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, including first offenses, see a dramatic drop in alcohol-related road deaths.

The law has two purposes:

  • Protecting the public from the dangers of drunk driving, and
  • Allowing offenders to get their lives back together by continuing to work, go to school, and attend counseling and recovery sessions if necessary.

The traditional punishment for drunk driving is license suspension, which does not work. All too many offenders ignore driving prohibitions. And those who do obey the law often find themselves unable to make a living. Ignition interlocks are a win-win for offenders and the public alike. Requiring the devices for repeat offenders, as Pennsylvania now does, is helpful, but an all-offender law prevents a great many more DUI arrests, collisions, injuries and deaths.

Pennsylvania’s interlock law differs from those in other states in that it applies to those with a BAC of .10 or above; usually it is .08, the legal limit for drunkenness in all 50 states. But it’s still a major step which will have an effect on road safety in the state.

The law now goes to Governor Wolf, who is expected to sign it. When the law goes into effect in late 2017, ignition interlock usage should expand a great deal in Pennsylvania. More interlocks will mean more foiled attempts to drink and drive. Pennsylvania has chosen the right bandwagon to hop on. We look forward to the Governor’s signature and a downturn in alcohol-related road fatalities in the state.