New Tennessee Ignition Interlock Law Fixes Glaring Loopholes

tennessee-ignition-interlock-law-fixedRoad safety is in the news lately. Maryland will be state number 26 to require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses once the governor signs Noah’s Law, which passed earlier in April. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Other states are debating stronger ignition interlock laws.

Tennessee has just boosted its road safety legislation by passing Senate Bill 2065/ House Bill 1843. The bills close two glaring loopholes in the state’s laws governing the mandating and removing of car breathalyzers:

Compliance-based removal. This is the single most effective way to administer an ignition interlock program is to require compliance-based removal. In Tennessee, offenders will have to show that four months have passed without a recorded violation before the interlock can be removed.

Compliance-based removal greatly enhances the power of ignition interlocks as a public safety measure. It helps offenders learn to separate drinking from driving. A user who has shown he or she is able to go 120 days without a failed test is ready for a second chance.

Interlocks by default. Tennessee has had a problem with judges who don’t order the ignition interlocks even for cases in which it is warranted. Interlocks lower the rates of alcohol-related road deaths, but only if they are ordered. The new law make an ignition interlock  device the default unless the judge specifically cancels it. While it might not be as strong as a straight mandatory interlock requirement, it’s much safer to have interlocks be the default.

Tennessee still has a way to go with its anti-drunk driving efforts. In addition to mandating interlocks for all DUI offenders, as opposed to just repeat offenders, the state should institute ALR – administrative license revocation – for DUI offenders. ALR means that the license is suspended immediately at the scene of the arrest, rather than waiting for conviction.

Still, this new, improved Tennessee ignition interlock law is one that other states should use as a model for sensible, effective road safety legislation. Nicely done.