MADD Calls for Wider Use of Interlock Devices to Prevent Drunk Driving

By May Wilkerson 02/12/16

The car-locking systems have already saved over one million lives. 

MADD Calls for Wider Use of Interlock Devices to Prevent Drunk Driving
Photo viawikicommons

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) has called for wider use of “interlocks” for convicted drunk drivers, a device that prevents a car from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit. In a report released yesterday, the organization said the devices have prevented 1.8 million cases of drunk driving across the US.

At a news conference yesterday, MADD urged Maryland lawmakers to back “Noah’s Bill,” which would require more people with DUI convictions to have an interlock on their car. The bill is named after Noah Leotta, a 24-year-old Maryland police officer who was killed while on duty by a suspected drunk driver in December. “I really don’t understand why such a commonsense law hasn’t passed,” said Noah’s father, Rich Leotta, who joined MADD in urging policymakers to support the bill. “The state of Maryland needs to do better. The nation needs to do better.”

The report was based on data from interlock device companies, which counted the number of times the ignition-lock devices stopped someone who was legally drunk from starting a car. “The fact that so many people have attempted to drive impaired—even after being caught and ordered to use an ignition interlock—tells us that we must put technology between all offenders and their cars,” said MADD’s president, Colleen Sheehey-Church. “Ignition interlocks save lives, and they could save even more lives if every offender is required to use the device after the first arrest.”

Every state mandates interlock devices in certain cases, but the laws vary from state-to-state, according to MADD. About half of states require the ignition locks for anyone convicted of driving with a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. In other states, the device isn’t required unless drivers had a higher BAC than .08. In Maryland, for example, the interlock device is voluntary for anyone convicted of driving with a BAC at or below .14%. 

The American Beverage Institute, a trade organization that represents restaurants, has pushed back against Noah’s Bill, claiming that interlocks should be reserved only for “hardcore drunk drivers,” meaning multiple offenders or those with high blood-alcohol content. “Someone who is one sip over the legal limit shouldn’t automatically be treated the same as high-BAC offenders and repeat offenders,” said a spokeswoman for the group.

Drunk drivers killed 130 people in Maryland last year, according to Rich Leotta. “These other 129 people are also very special but do not have the voice Noah has been given,” he said. “So Noah is representing all the people of Maryland, and throughout the country, that have been needlessly killed and injured by drunk drivers.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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