Texas House Nails It: Ignition Interlocks Needed for First DUI Offenders

Welcome-To-Texas-Drrive-FriendlyAn important piece of DUI legislation cleared the Texas House of Representatives last week. If the Senate approves it and the Governor signs it, Texas will become the 25th state in the union to mandate an ignition interlock for every first-time DUI offender. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

House Bill 2246 passed by a vote of 143 to 1. It looks as if some Texans are pretty enthusiastic about the prospect of protecting citizens on their roads and streets.

Under current Texas law, first offenders must have interlock devices installed only if they are convicted with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or more – about twice the legal limit for drunkenness. However, studies have shown that .08 – the legal limit in all states – is a severe enough impairment to warrant the interlock. At that level, judgement is compromised, hearing and vision are diminished, and reaction times are not sufficient to handle situations that might come up on the road.

What makes this bill particularly important is that Texas has the unhappy distinction of being the nation’s leader in drunk driving deaths. It would be a fitting distinction, and an important boost for the cause, if Texas became the 25th state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. Such laws have had great success in reducing alcohol-related deaths in neighboring states.

Texas isn’t there yet: the Senate still has to vote on the bill. But the House lawmakers, presumably acting on behalf of their constituents, have shown that the support is there.

Way to go, Texas.