Use of ignition locks may grow in Pennsylvania
An upcoming state Senate Transportation Committee hearing on whether to include first-time offenders in the ignition interlock program is part of the most important drunken-driving legislation in more than a decade, a representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said.
“It's not necessarily because it's a harsher sanction, but it's an effective sanction for a drunk driver,” said Frank Harris, state legislative affairs manager for MADD.
Since 2003, repeat drunken drivers are required to have an interlock device installed on their cars. They blow into the device, which measures their blood-alcohol level and prevents the car from starting if the level is 0.025 percent or higher. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent in Pennsylvania, lowered from 0.10 percent in 2003.
Under Senate Bill 1036, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, first-time offenders can choose to accept an interlock device on their vehicle for at least six months to keep their driver's license. First-time offenders can lose their license for 12 to 18 months, depending on the level of alcohol in their bloodstream. The bill's co-sponsors include Sens. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, and Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.
The interlocks for first-time offenders would be voluntary, and a defendant could simply serve out a license suspension. Supporters of the legislation, however, said that many of those with suspended licenses continue to drive.
“This ensures an individual has the opportunity to redeem himself, to get behind the wheel and be legal. We want the assurance they're not operating under the influence of alcoholic beverages,” said C. Stephen Erni, head of the Pennsylvania DUI Association, which works to reduce DUIs.
He said statistics show that 60 percent of people convicted of driving drunk are driving with suspended licenses.
Erni said about 8,000 repeat offenders have interlocks. He estimated that authorities made nearly 55,000 drunken-driving arrests in 2013, meaning that thousands of first-time offenders would be included in the program if the legislation passes.
“We still want to send a message that driving is a privilege,” Erni said.
Harris said the legislation could be modified to specify that the expansion of testing would include alcohol only, because testing for drug impairment is more expensive. Alcohol interlocks cost drivers $65 to $110 a month, about the cost of two beers a day.
In arguing for interlocks, MADD cites a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that said they reduce repeat drunken-driving offenses by 67 percent. The study said first-time offenders frequently drove while drunk before they were arrested.
A committee hearing on the bill could take place next week, Rafferty's office said Monday.
Bill Vidonic is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Veteran designation on Pennsylvania driver’s licenses loosely audited
- Impact of Ohio’s moves to reduce Lake Erie algae years away
- Pa. trooper wounded in barracks ambush hopes to return to force
- Trooper severely injured when hit by own car
- PSU president will back tuition freeze if Wolf’s funding plan passes
- Mother, grandparents of starved boy sentenced to prison
- PennDOT turns to roundabout intersections, citing safety, cost
- Man, 82, dies in Lawrence County house fire
- Four veterinarians charged for doping race horses at Penn National
- Teacher strike threats remain in Western Pennsylvania
- Denver Botanic Gardens boosts attendance