WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which represents over eight thousand of America’s favorite family restaurants, denounced the House Transportation Reauthorization Bill which would require that all 50 states mandate ignition interlocks – in-car breathalyzers – as punishment for low-BAC (blood alcohol concentration) first-time DUI offenders. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a press conference about this bill today at 3:00pm.
Laws mandating ignition interlocks for all offenders deny judges the ability to distinguish between a driver one sip over the limit and high-BAC, repeat offenders. Only 15 states have enacted laws like this, while 27 have chosen to target the hardcore offenders: those arrested with high-BACs (.15% and above) and/or repeat convictions.
“The majority of states have decided not to enact these laws because they deny judicial discretion and ignore the root cause of today’s drunk driving problem—hard core alcohol abusers,” said ABI spokeswoman Sarah Longwell.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the average BAC of a drunk driver in a fatal car crash is 0.19% — more than twice the legal limit. But the House’s proposed interlock mandate doesn’t target this dangerous population and instead will force first-time DUI offenders, even those just one sip over the legal limit, to install breathalyzers in their cars.
“Before moving forward with this highway bill, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee should amend the interlock mandate to apply to the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-impaired fatalities and restore judicial discretion in the cases of those with a lower BAC level,” continued Longwell.
In addition to failing to target the worst offenders, this mandate will cost each state millions of dollars to enforce. The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) recently estimated that the cost for supervision of offenders to states would be over $432 million. Yet, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a fervent supporter of such wide-reaching, one-size-fits-all mandates, will claim that this measure is cost-neutral to states.
“Don’t believe everything you hear. MADD has a long history of juking the stats to drum up support for its activist, misguided policies,” Longwell said. MADD also claims that interlock laws reduced recidivism and decreased fatalities in New Mexico, but you can learn the truth on our website, www.InterlockFacts.com.
States who have enacted this mandate have found out the hard way that expanding interlocks to every offender is an expensive proposition. Several New York counties, for example, refused to participate in the state’s interlock program because the legislature has failed to provide localities with the millions of dollars in funding necessary to enforce the law. As a result, only 44 percent of offenders in New York have installed the required ignition interlock device. In New Mexico, the first state to enact such a mandate, monitoring costs amounted to $13.1 million per year based on the number of interlocked offenders in 2010.
Furthermore, this mandate is an incremental step in MADD’s broader campaign to see ignition interlock technology installed in all new cars as standard equipment.
The federal government has partnered with MADD and auto manufacturers to develop ignition interlock technology that would come as standard equipment in all cars in the near future. Due to legal and liability implications, the devices would have to be set far below the legal limit – effectively eliminating millions of Americans’ ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, a beer at a ball game, or a champagne toast at a wedding and drive home.
For more information or to speak with ABI managing director Sarah Longwell, please contact Michael Moroney at 202-463-7110.