Trenton, NJ — The New Jersey Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation today requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
S 824 expands the state’s interlock law to first-time drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher and represents the most significant DWI reform in New Jersey in nearly a decade. If signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey will become the 34th state in the nation with an all-offender law.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) thanks Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblywoman Joann Downey for authoring this lifesaving legislation, as well as the other lawmakers, volunteers, staff and traffic safety partners who ensured its passage.
“Drunk driving is a violent, preventable crime,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was killed by a drunk and drugged teen driver while rollerblading on a bike path near home. “Your work will spare untold families a lifetime of pain. It will bring one more child or parent or spouse home. It will bring us closer to a nation of No More Victims. I am so grateful to you.”
Drunk driving killed 125 people on New Jersey roads in 2017.
Studies show states that have ignition interlock laws similar to S 824 (and companion bill A 2089) can reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent and drunk driving deaths by 16 percent.
Since January 2010, Ricci’s Law has required New Jersey judges to order all repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater to install ignition interlocks. S 824 will require first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 or greater to get an interlock for a period of at least 30 days. These small, in-car breathalyzers require a sober breath sample before the vehicle will start.
Currently, first offenders in New Jersey who register a .08 to .14 BAC receive a suspended license. However, studies show that 50 to 75 percent of drunk driving offenders continue to drive on a suspended license.
Interlocks are the only technology available today that separate drinking from driving, and they are working. Over the last dozen years, interlocks have prevented more than 87,925 attempts to drive drunk in New Jersey. In 2018 alone, interlocks stopped 13,500 drivers from driving drunk.
“This law will expand interlock use to all drunk driving offenders and ensure this lifesaving technology is used to its fullest potential,” said Steven Benvenisti, Esq., a former MADD National Board Member, longtime MADD New Jersey volunteer and survivor of a near-fatal drunk driving crash, who has worked for years to pass an all-offender interlock law here. “Drunk driving remains the leading killer on our nation’s roadways. We have more options available today than ever before for a safe ride home. Yet the numbers of drunk driving deaths are going up. It will take technology, stronger laws like this one, and dedicated law enforcement to end this preventable crime.”
In addition to saving lives, these lifesaving bills also teach sober driving and give DWI offenders the opportunity to carry on with their lives. “They can continue to drive – as long as they do it sober,” Witty said.
The legislation passed today was strongly supported by MADD as part of its national campaign to pass interlock laws that apply to all offenders. As part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving launched in 2006, MADD’s top legislative priority in states is to enact all-offender interlock laws. When the campaign was launched, only one state, New Mexico, had such a law. Earlier this year, Kentucky joined 32 other states and Washington D.C., to have passed all-offender interlock laws.
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save nearly 380,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or ca
CONTACT: Becky Iannotta, [email protected] or 202.600.2032