Bill would require ignition interlock for DUI offenders - - The News for South Mississippi

Bill would require ignition interlock for DUI offenders

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Starting your car with a DUI conviction on your record could soon start a little differently. That would be thanks to an ignition interlock device requiring a breathalyzer type test before the car will even start. If a bill being pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving becomes law the devices will be mandated.

"Drunk driving is completely preventable," Etolie Frazier Patrick said.

For Patrick, the legislation is personal. Her 19-year-old son, John Michael, was hit and killed by a drunk driver in March 2007. His life wasn't the only one lost. His 18-year-old girlfriend was in the car as well. The man responsible was a third time offender with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.

"He said he only had two beers. I said one of those beers killed my son and one killed his girlfriend," Patrick said.

Patrick is now hoping lawmakers share her passion for change. Under the bill, a first time conviction would mean an offender must have the device installed for six months. A second conviction requires it for one to two years. On a third or subsequent offense the device would stay in place for three to five years.

"This law will help save lives and it will help prevent repeat offenses," said Frank Harris, legislative affairs manager with MADD.

Harris says just suspending an offender's license doesn't prevent them from driving. He says up to 75 percent of offenders drive on a suspended license. While interlock devices are allowed in Mississippi at a judge's discretion, advocates say they need to be required not decided.

"With more interlocks on the road for a convicted drunk driver's vehicle, the less likely they're going to re-offend, the less likely they're driving drunk following a conviction," Harris said.

The cost would be passed on to the offender and Patrick says by requiring it after a first offense, it'll show the state is serious about drunk driving.

"There's no excuse. I don't think we should give them a by. They don't get a pass, for being drunk," Patrick said.

Seventeen other states already have a similar law to this in place. The legislation passed the house overwhelmingly and is now pending in a senate committee.

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