May 05, 2009

State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg joined today with the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and District Attorneys Kathleen M. Rice (Nassau County) and Kate Hogan (Warren County) in calling for a mandatory ignition interlock program for all people convicted of drunk driving in New York State. 

The legislation (S. 27-B/A. 7196-A), sponsored by Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg as well as Senator Martin Malave Dilan, would require all those convicted of drunk driving, including first time offenders, to install, at their own cost, an ignition interlock device in all vehicles which they use while on probation.  The life-saving technology has been proven to reduce drunk driving recidivism and save lives.  The ignition interlock requirement would be in addition to other penalties he or she may received.  The proposed law also mandates probation for all DWI offenders.

Senator Fuschillo (8th District), Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said, “Even though New York State has enacted a number of significant laws to combat drunk driving, people are still dying on our roadways.  We need a new tool in our arsenal to eradicate drunk driving.  Interlock systems have been proven extremely effective in ensuring that drunk drivers, including first time offenders, never drink and drive again.” 

Assemblyman Weisenberg said (20th District), “It is clear that being charged with a DWI is no longer enough of a disincentive to drink and drive. There are people out on the roads of our neighborhoods who continue to operate a vehicle while under the influence, despite having multiple DWIs.  As a former Chairman of the Assembly Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee and former police officer, it is my hope that ignition interlock devices will be the key to preventing injuries and deaths throughout communities across New York State.”

Laura Dean-Mooney, MADD national president, said, “Drunk driving is a 100 percent preventable crime that can be deadly.  Ignition interlocks are a proven, effective way to stop repeat drunk driving.  We are here to urge lawmakers to save lives in the great state of New York.”

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, President-elect of the District Attorneys Association of New York State, said, “Even though everyone knows that you should not drink and drive, we still see an increase in repeat DWI offenders.  The ignition interlock requirement would reduce the recidivism rate and insure that we are using every tool possible to keep our streets safe.  Too many families have lost a loved one due to drunk drivers, and there is no reason not to enact this legislation.”

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, "Legislation like this is common sense and will improve the safety of our roadways in New York. I applaud our legislative leaders for their continuing commitment to combating drunk driving and the violence it causes.

Paul Folkemer, MADD national board chairman and resident of Rockland County New York, added, “Unfortunately, people soon forget the Long Island drunk driving crash that killed little Katie Flynn and the limo driver Stanley Robinowitz in July 2005.  A drunk driver that was three times the illegal blood alcohol level killed them and injured the rest of the families emotionally and physically.  These are the reasons drunk driving must be eliminated.

An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system.  When a convicted drunk driver starts their vehicle, he or she must first blow into the device.  The vehicle will not start if the driver has alcohol in their system.  Interlocks have been proven to reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 64 percent according to MADD.

Currently 10 states require or highly incentivize interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.   The State of New Mexico mandates ignition interlock for everyone convicted of DWI.  A 2008 study conducted by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and the Pacific Institute of Research and Analysis found that recidivism rates for DWI in that state had dropped by 60 percent since the program was established.

In 2007, 344 people were killed by drunk drivers on New York’s roadways according to the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Under the legislation, the period of time first offenders would have to use an ignition interlock device would increase the higher the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the offender, from three months to one year.

Under current state law, only those convicted of Aggravated DWI (a .18 BAC and over) who are sentenced to probation are required to install and maintain ignition interlock devices.

For first time offenders, the period of required ignition interlock under the proposed law would be: 

            -  BAC of .08 to .11 – mandatory three months probation and interlock

            -  BAC of .12 to .17 – mandatory six months probation and interlock

            -  BAC of .18 or higher – mandatory one year probation and interlock

For repeat offenders, the period of required ignition interlock would be:

             - 2nd DWI conviction – a minimum of three years probation and interlock.

            - 3rd DWI conviction – a minimum of five years probation and interlock

            - 4th DWI conviction - a minimum of ten years probation and interlock.

Under the legislation, every vehicle owned, leased, rented or loaned by the offenders would have an ignition interlock.  

In addition, each person convicted of a drug or alcohol driving-related offense would have to pay a surcharge of $50 which would be placed in a newly established Mandatory Ignition Interlock Fund maintained by the Division of Probation and Correction Alternatives and used to provide for continued and future support of the interlock program, including updating of equipment and hiring of more probationary staff.  The fund would also support ignition interlock devices for New Yorkers who are proven to be unable to finance the devices. 

MADD New York advocates and volunteers spent the day at the Capitol in Albany urging New York lawmakers to support the ignition interlock legislation.