After clearing the House by a wide majority, bill heads to Senate Judiciary Committee

BOISE – (March 13, 2018) – After clearing the House by a large majority, House Bill 551 (legislation that requires the use of an ignition interlock device for all drunk driving offenders) will be presented for a hearing Wednesday, March 14 before the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee.

H551 requires the use of an ignition interlock device for a period of one year following a DUI conviction or refusal to submit to evidentiary testing. Current law requires an interlock device for repeat offenses only.  Interlocks provide an important safeguard – when a driver blows into the device, any detectable amount of alcohol will prevent the vehicle from starting.

“There is a tremendous amount of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of ignition interlocks,” says Matthew Conde, public and government affairs director for AAA Idaho. “AAA’s mission is to advocate for the safety of motorists, and impaired driving fatalities and crashes are on the rise in Idaho.  It’s time to expand the toolkit to combat this issue.”

In one study, interlock devices were shown to reduce recidivism by 67 percent vs. license suspension alone. Another comprehensive study shows that on average, states that impose an all-offender ignition interlock law can expect to reduce drunk-driving fatalities by 7 percent.  The typical offender drives drunk 80 times before being arrested for DUI, further highlighting the seriousness of the problem.

Crafted in partnership with Senator Grant Burgoyne, AAA’s bill addresses a growing problem in the Gem State. In 2016, there were over 1,500 impaired driving crashes – an increase of twelve percent over 2015.  While fatalities leveled off at 88, that figure represents a 21 percent increase over 2014.

H551 has received support from several stakeholders, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association.

AAA and Senator Burgoyne also worked with the Attorney General’s Office, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to discuss the bill and alleviate potential concerns.

Recently, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, an organization funded by alcohol producers and distillers to eliminate drunk-driving behavior, issued a letter to Idaho’s legislative leaders calling for the passage of H551.

MADD Director of State Government Affairs Frank Harris said, “H551 is a major step forward in improving public safety on Idaho roads, and the most significant drunk driving legislation in decades.”

AAA and MADD urge legislators to vote for passage of H551. Ignition interlocks provide a flexible solution – drivers are required to safely operate a motor vehicle, but they can still fulfill family and work responsibilities.  Research shows anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive, demonstrating the need to use interlocks as a more effective alternative.

“H551 is a simple, straightforward bill,” Conde said. “It makes clear that drunk-driving offenders with evidence of financial hardship have access to existing funds, and it also provides judges with the discretion to waive the interlock requirement if there is convincing evidence that the person does not pose a continued danger to the public.  This is a fair, flexible piece of legislation that can do a lot of good in Idaho.”