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Eye On Boise

MADD: Ignition interlock bill is ‘biggest DUI reform to pass Idaho Legislature since ‘97’

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is applauding the Idaho Senate’s passage this week of HB 551, which would require an ignition interlock device – something the driver blows into, and the car won’t start if the device detects alcohol on their breath – for first-time drunken driving offenders in Idaho and those who refuse a roadside alcohol test. Current law in Idaho requires the devices only for repeat offenders; 30 other states already have laws like HB 551, which requires use of the device for a year.

The bill passed the Senate on Monday on a 21-12 vote; it earlier passed the House, 55-14, and now is headed to Gov. Butch Otter.

MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church said, “H 551 is the biggest DUI reform proposal to pass the Idaho legislature since 1997, when lawmakers enact the .08 percent law.  MADD thanks Senator Burgoyne and Representative Wintrow for leading this lifesaving legislation through the Senate and House, and for all the votes in favor of stopping this preventable crime. We also cannot thank our partners at AAA Idaho enough for their tireless efforts pushing this lifesaving proposal.”

Matthew Conde, public and government affairs director for AAA Idaho, said, “Traffic safety is at the heart of AAA’s mission, and the number of impaired driving fatalities, injuries and crashes on Idaho roads is simply unacceptable. It has been a pleasure to work closely with MADD and other concerned stakeholders to advance legislation that we know can make a real difference. Ignition interlocks provide a measure of fairness and personal responsibility that keeps everyone safe. We don’t want a single empty chair at the family table due to a drunk driving crash.”

The national Centers for Disease Control estimates that all-offender ignition interlock laws like H 551 reduce drunk driving recidivism by 67 percent. The devices include cameras to ensure that someone else other than the offender isn’t the one blowing into it; and they also conduct rolling retests of the driver’s breath.

Offenders would have to pay for the devices themselves; a fee on offenders would help cover costs for those who couldn’t afford them. Among the states that already have similar laws are Idaho's neighbors Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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