In a year when the national average for highway deaths involving drunk drivers was 1.9 percent, Massachusetts rated 2.9 percent. An average of 121 people in the state die each year from alcohol-related accidents. Impaired drivers were responsible for accidents that killed over 10,000 people across the country in one year.
Across the nation, lawmakers and law enforcement combat those statistics with tougher laws and harsher penalties. A conviction for drunk driving may mean jail time, loss of driving privileges and stiff fines, with these penalties increasing with each subsequent conviction. Recently, however, states are trying a new approach.
The benefits of ignition interlock
You have likely heard of the ignition interlock system, which prevents you from starting your car if it detects alcohol on your breath. If you are convicted of operating under the influence in Massachusetts, the court may require you to install an ignition interlock system in your car, but only if it is not your first offense or you have requested a hardship license. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is fighting to make ignition interlock systems mandatory for every OUI conviction.
Massachusetts is one of only two states that do not require interlock devices for first offenders. Statistics show that having such a device installed in your car is more effective for preventing you from driving after drinking than simply suspending your license. In fact, in the past ten years, MADD reports that more than 31,000 people in Massachusetts avoided driving under the influence because they had ignition interlock systems to stop them.
MADD has been encouraging lawmakers to pass a bill requiring ignition interlock for all OUI offenders, but the bill is having trouble getting through the state congress. Some lawmakers believe their colleagues still have questions about the fairness of the bill.
Of course, as with any type of machinery, you may worry about the possibility of false positive readings. Breathalyzers and other devices that register alcohol content are notorious for signifying the presence of alcohol when the person tested had consumed none. Sponsors of the bill promise that law enforcement will assist you if you receive a false positive reading from your interlock system.
With increasing penalties and restrictions for OUI convictions, the best alternative may be to avoid conviction if at all possible. Even a single OUI offense on your record can potentially damage your future and eliminate important opportunities. Relying on law enforcement to help if you have issues with an ignition interlock reading may not be the best option, which is why you need to have an attorney on your side who is well versed in the state laws regarding OUI and drunk driving.