Rhode Island DUIs Need Ignition Interlock Right After Conviction
Some of the most dangerous obstacles to road safety are well-intentioned laws. Rhode Island is trying to fix a law that tries to cut down drunk driving, but actually makes it easier to drink and drive than it first appears.
Currently, anyone convicted of drunk driving in Rhode Island has an automatic license suspension. This is an almost instinctive reaction to the crime of impaired driving that used to be the norm in many states. After a period of not driving, offenders can have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicle. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
The problem is that suspension period before the interlock goes on:
- It often prevents offenders from working, going to school, or obtaining counseling, thus disrupting their lives and making recovery less likely for those who need to put their lives back together.
- Worse, suspensions do not prevent any driving, much less drunk driving. Nothing prevents a suspended driver from getting back behind the wheel, illegally and uninsured.
Senate Bill 2370, sponsored by Senator Stephen Archambault, will make Rhode Island’s roads safer by using technology to prevent drunk drivers from reoffending. Under the bill, a first-time DUI offender may have an ignition interlock installed immediately after conviction. With an interlock device, a vehicle will not start if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) beyond a very low level.
If ignition interlocks work to take impaired drivers off the roads, why do states insist on suspensions? For some, ignition interlocks appear “soft on crime.” It doesn’t seem fair that a person who makes the bad decision to drink and drive should be allowed to drive off into the sunset with only a device for supervision.
But in fact, the ignition interlock is excellent supervision. Offenders must re-test while driving to prove that they haven’t had a drink after passing the first test. All tests and driving stats are logged and passed to monitoring authorities, so that any test failures or attempts to circumvent the device are recorded and action may be taken.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has endorsed Rhode Island SB 2370. Passing it would be an important step in the national movement to reduce alcohol-related road deaths. Someday all 50 states will require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses. Until then, we rely on the foresight of legislators like Senator Archambault to fight the good fight and protect the public.