Beginning Dec. 1, New Jersey will become the 34th state to require Ignition Interlock Devices for every drunk-driving offender. That includes first-time DUIs.
There’s no debate about the effectiveness of Ignition Interlock Devices as a way of keeping drivers safer on the road. Dozens of studies by groups like the National Institutes of Health to Johns Hopkins University confirm it. Ignition Interlock unquestionably has a positive effect on alcohol-involved crashes and fatalities.
Heavy Support for New Jersey Ignition Interlock Requirement
The New Jersey law drew heavy bipartisan support and was overwhelmingly passed last summer in the state legislature. Sen. Nicholas Scutari was one of the bill’s sponsors, along with Assemblywoman Joann Downey.
“There’s strong evidence that Interlock Devices go a long way in reducing re-arrest rates when they’re installed in offenders’ vehicles,” Downey said. “By requiring more drivers arrested for DUIs to install Interlocks in their cars, we could see a substantial reduction in alcohol-related crashes.”
Believing in the Effectiveness of Ignition Interlock
Downey said the New Jersey Ignition Interlock requirement will reduce the amount of time that a first-time offender loses their driver’s license while Ignition Interlock decreases the likelihood of a repeat offense.
“Traditionally, intoxicated drivers have also had to forfeit their driver’s license while penalized. That can keep them from getting to work or performing their duties,” Downey said. “If that leads to the individual being fired, it’s not uncommon to see emotional consequences like depression. That can encourage even more of the substance abuse that led to the penalty in the first place.
“This law creates a more humane solution that’s also more effective in the long run, making New Jersey roads safer for everyone.”
Scutari, who is a longtime proponent of the law, said it solves a major problem while striking a suitable balance.
“Drunk driving is a serious issue in New Jersey,” he said. “Having prosecuted for 16 years, my experience is that the use of Ignition Interlocks is the best way to safeguard our roads but allow minor offenders to continue their employment.”
MADD Continues Pushing for Strong Ignition Interlock Laws
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was a heavy supporter of a New Jersey Ignition Interlock requirement. According to a MADD press release, studies show that states with all-offender Interlock laws can reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent. Also, they can reduce drunk driving deaths by 16 percent.
Steven Benvenisti, an attorney in Teaneck, N.J., was nearly killed by a drunk driver as a college student in 1989. Benvenisti has served as a MADD national board member, and is a longtime MADD volunteer. He has worked for years to pass an all-offender Interlock law in New Jersey.
“I know the anguish this violent, preventable crime inflicts on survivors and family members,” Benvenisti said. “In 2018, Ignition Interlocks kept 13,500 drunk drivers off our roads. Now this lifesaving technology will be used to its fullest potential.”