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Drunk drivers must blow

by | Jul 16, 2015 | Latest

From Staff Reports

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Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2246 into law, requiring drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock if they choose to drive during their license suspension period following an arrest.

The governor’s action makes Texas the 25th state in the nation to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law.

An ignition interlock is a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed in a vehicle to deter drinking and driving. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must deliver a breath sample into the device, and if the analyzed alcohol level is greater than the pre-programmed level, the device prevents the vehicle from being started.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed HB 2246 on May 27, following a House vote of 143-1 on May 5. With the Governor’s signature, the law goes into effect this September.

“This is a great day for Texas, the home state of MADD’s national headquarters,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. “I will be forever grateful to Representative Jason Villalba, Senator Joan Huffman and all of the MADD supporters who worked tirelessly to pass this life-saving law, and I want to thank Governor Abbott. I hope other states, such as North Carolina, Ohio, California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, will soon follow Texas’ lead and pass all-offender ignition interlock laws.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 percent of all traffic deaths in Texas are caused by a drunk driver. Texas led the nation in drunk driving deaths in 2013, when 1,337 people were killed by a drunk driver.

MADD supports the use of ignition interlocks for all offenders — instead of license suspension alone — because studies show that license suspensions are difficult to enforce and often ignored. Interlocks protect the public while allowing offenders to continue with their jobs, family obligations and other responsibilities.

“Ignition interlocks have reduced drunk driving deaths in other states by 30 to 45 percent,” said Jaime Gutierrez, MADD Texas Executive Director. “This bill could save hundreds of lives in Texas, where too many families have suffered tragic losses at the hands of a drunk driver.”

As part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving launched in 2006, MADD’s top legislative push in states is enacting all-offender interlock laws like HB 2246. When the campaign was launched, only one state, New Mexico, had such a law. Nine years later, Texas becomes the 25th state to enact this lifesaving law. For more information on ignition interlocks, please visit madd.org.

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