MADD Massachusetts Pushes For Tougher Ignition Interlock Law

ignition interlockWhen a state begins the process of passing an all offender ignition interlock law, it’s almost always guaranteed there will be road blocks. In order to get the most support for the law before it goes for a vote, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will make a show of support by sharing victim impact stories and statistical data to demonstrate just why that law is needed.

MADD Maryland came out for the Maryland all offender ignition interlock law by supporting Officer Noah Leotta’s family, and the state finally passed Noah’s law not long after. Now MADD Massachusetts is front and center as lawmakers attempt to pass a new bill requiring interlock devices for anyone who is arrested for drunk driving.

Massachusetts is one of two states that does not have an interlock law for their first time operating under the influence (OUI) offenders. That means any first time drunk driver can choose to wait out his or her suspension or ignore it altogether and continue to drive after an OUI conviction. These drivers are only required to use the device in Massachusetts if they are arrested two or more times.

To support the bill MADD Massachusetts has made their voice heard by testifying at the State House. They’ve shared data that indicates that ignition interlocks have stopped, in the past ten years, over 38,000 attempts to drive drunk in the state. That data is only for repeat offenders, so it’s easy to imagine how many first-time offenders would be stopped by these devices if they decide to drink and drive again.

Along with MADD Massachusetts, several victims of drunk driving in the state have shared their experiences. Although the bill is currently still up for debate, it’s the hopes of everyone supporting it that Massachusetts lawmakers will make the right decision and pass this much-needed all offender ignition interlock law.

New Bills May Be Just What Massachusetts Drunk Driving Law Needs

Massachusetts drunk drivingThere’s a lot going on in the world of Massachusetts drunk driving lately, and a few new bills have been proposed to stop drunk driving offenders and ensure safer roads for everyone in the state.

Out of all the bills, the one that’s generating the most interest is the Massachusetts ignition interlock bill. This bill has been on the agenda several times but it’s never passed, and now Representative Louis Kafka has brought it to the table again.

The bill proposes that anyone convicted of drunk driving for the first time would be required to use an ignition interlock device for six months. An ignition interlock – a device that tests your blood alcohol content (BAC) every time you start the car, would be required instead of a driver’s license suspension.

If passed, the new law would be a change from current ignition interlock laws designed to stop Massachusetts drunk driving. Right now, ignition interlocks are only required for offenders charged two or more times and who receive a hardship driver’s license.

Representative Kafka has made a passionate plea for ignition interlocks as a means for drunk drivers to continue to work, drive their families, and resume their lives after a Massachusetts drunk driving conviction, but the bill has a long road before it’s law.

A similar bill never made it out of the House Ways and Means Committee when it was proposed, and this bill is currently in front of the Transportation Committee and waiting for a hearing. Although it’s in limbo the good news is that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA are all testifying on behalf of it, so there’s a positive force pushing it forward.

This could be the year that Massachusetts focuses on public safety and puts a lock down on all drunk driving offenders. Let’s hope there’s good news coming from the state soon.

Will This Year See a New Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Law?

Massachusetts ignition interlock law,Anti-drunk driving advocates want a Massachusetts ignition interlock law, and they aren’t going to stop fighting until they manage to pass one. That’s why they are coming out in support of two proposed bills that could be presented in the 2016/2017 session.

Right now repeat offenders in Massachusetts are required to install an ignition interlock in any vehicle they drive, but only after they have obtained a hardship license after two or more drunk driving convictions. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Massachusetts would like to see first time offenders be required to use the device too.

The new bill would require first-time offenders to install such devices as well.

Massachusetts wants a new ignition interlock law for good reason: the state, along with Idaho, are currently the only ones in the entire country without some sort of first offender law. When MADD released their report on drunk driving recently, they detailed how ignition interlocks have stopped over 31,000 offenders from driving drunk in the state.

It’s easy to imagine how many drunk drivers could be stopped if all offenders were required to install an ignition interlock, but the road to the governor’s desk hasn’t been easy in Massachusetts. This proposed law has been brought up several times before, most notably in 2015 when it died in the Ways and Means Committee.

One of the senators opposed to the bill has cited the issue of ignition interlock false positives as a reason first offenders should not be required to use the device, but false positives can be easily avoided. If you’ve just eaten something with yeasty, had juice or a fruity drink, drank anything with vinegar in it, or had an energy drink, you just need to wait fifteen minutes before you blow or wash out your mouth with water. Once you do, you should have no problem with false positives.

Let’s hope this is the year that an all offender Massachusetts ignition interlock law makes it to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

After Death Of Officer, Drunk Driving Laws May Change In Massachusetts

drunk driving laws massachusetsMaryland’s drunk driving laws only changed after a drunk driving crash claimed the life of Officer Noah Leotta. He was killed while working a routine holiday task force when a drunk driver clipped his police cruiser and crashed into him as he stood on the side of the road.

Officer Leotta’s death was mourned nationwide, and to stop drunk drivers in Maryland from killing someone else, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Leotta’s parents pushed to change drunk driving laws. They petitioned to require ignition interlocks for all offenders in Maryland, and in April of 2016 they successfully passed Noah’s Law. It was made official and signed by the Governor of Maryland in May of 2016.

Now another family has lost a family member is law enforcement, this time in Florida. Deputy Sheriff John Robert Kotfila Jr. was working for the Hillsborough Police Department in Florida. He was driving down a highway when a drunk driver going the wrong way down the highway crashed into him. A witness believed that Officer Kotfila put his vehicle in the way of the drunk driver because she was directly in his path.

Just like Officer Leotta’s family, Officer Kotfila’s family is now pushing for stricter drunk driving laws. They’d like to see their home state of Massachusetts pass an all offender drunk driving law that requires ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of drunk driving. They gathered on the steps of the Massachusetts State House recently to bring awareness to the tragedy and asked speakers from MADD, AAA, and a physician from a Boston Hospital to speak out in support.

As of right now only second time or offenders with several convictions are required to use an ignition interlock in Massachusetts. By requiring first time offenders to use the device, they could stop a lot of first time drunk drivers from turning into repeat offenders. If a new ignition interlock law passes in Massachusetts, it will be a big step in the right direction.

Ignition Interlock Bill Alive And Well In Massachusetts

massachusets ignition interlockThe Massachusetts Senate finished its legislative session on July 31st, but thanks to a little persistence from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other anti-drunk driving activists, an ignition interlock that was been dead on the floor several times since 2008 has passed Senate before it ended and is now getting closer to becoming a law.

Senate Bill 1895 requires first time drunk driving offenders to use an ignition interlock in any vehicle they drive. Prior to this new bill, Massachusetts wasn’t on board with a first offender ignition interlock law. Only repeat offenders with two or more convictions were required to install the device.

If Senate Bill 1895 becomes law, there are big changes on the horizon for Massachusetts. Right now an offender has to apply for a hardship driver’s license after a drunk driving conviction. The license allows that person to drive during certain hours of the day, and they can only apply for the hardship license after they’ve completed a driver’s license suspension period.

Senate Bill 1895 changes that by letting a drunk driving offender apply for a restriction-free hardship driver’s license sooner, but they have to have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicle. If you’re a first time offender, that means you’ll be able to apply for your hardship driver’s license and install your ignition interlock immediately after your conviction.

A repeat offender would be required to serve out his or her jail sentence and enter a treatment program before he or she would be able to apply to obtain a hardship license and ignition interlock. A judge makes the decision on whether or not that person would receive the license.

Thanks to a report by MADD on their effectiveness, there is growing recognition of how ignition interlocks are the most effective way to stop a drunk driver. With 26 other states with first offender ignition interlock laws on the books, Massachusetts will be in good company if they pass this law.

Massachusetts Ready For An All Offender Ignition Interlock Law

all offender ignition interlock law massachusettsThanks to the recent report on ignition interlocks from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), we all know that ignition interlocks are actively stopping millions of drunk drivers. The devices have prevented over 12.7 million people from driving when they are drunk, and 240,000 of those people live in Massachusetts alone. Now the state has brought a new bill asking for an all offender ignition interlock law, and if it passes, anyone who drinks and drives in Massachusetts or anywhere else in the state will be required to use an ignition interlock for a period of time.

In relation to other states, first offenders in Massachusetts receive fairly light sentences for operating under the influence (OUI). They may spend up to 30 months behind bars, pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000 in fines, and receive a one year driver’s license suspension, but first offenders for drinking and driving in Massachusetts are not required to install an ignition interlock.

The new SP 1895 bill would change all that. Instead of just requiring second or repeat offenders to install the device, all offenders would need to drive with an ignition interlock for a period of time. This bill builds on Melanie’s Law, passed in 2005 in honor of Melanie Powell, a 13-year-old girl who was walking to a birthday party and was struck and killed by a repeat OUI offender. Melanie’s Law requires any driver with 2 or more OUI convictions and who meets the eligibility for a hardship license to install the device. Any offender with 2 or more OUI convictions who is eligible for driver’s license reinstatement must also use the device for 2 years after their license is reinstated, even if he or she already had a hardship license.

Representatives from MADD and other supporters feel that SB 1895 will cut down the rate of drunk driving in Massachusetts more than Melanie’s Law alone. Let’s hope when the hearing takes place in April, Massachusetts will join 25 other states by adding an all offender ignition interlock law.


Underwater Car Great Reminder For Teens To Avoid Drinking And Driving

Photo from Kununurra Police

Photo from Kununurra Police

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, and although it might have happened over the pond in Australia, the image of a car sitting deep in the clear water of a river isn’t one you could soon forget.

How did it get there? According to local police, a teen was drinking and driving when he crashed into an irrigation channel and the car ended up at the bottom of the river. Although he lived to tell the tale and see his court date, other teens haven’t been so lucky this summer.

A Millbury, Massachusetts’s teenager is facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges after he crashed into a tree. He was air lifted to the hospital with undetermined injuries and police have said he’ll be charged with DUI, negligent driving, speeding, and failing to wear seat belt.

He’s not the only teen in hot water. A New Jersey teen was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) twice in a 10-hour period. The 19 year old crashed into a pole and was charged with DWI of suspected narcotics. Incredibly, 10 hours later he was in another car crash while sitting in traffic caused by his first crash. That’s not all either—his mom had allowed him to get behind the wheel and drive, so she was charged with allowing a person to operate a vehicle impaired.

All of these cases from the past week are reminders of how easy it is to lose control and crash when you’re drinking and driving. Young people who drink alcohol are inexperienced with drinking and inexperienced behind the wheel, and when you combine the two you can get fatal results.

If you need help talking to your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving, check out the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) page on underage drinking.

Finally, Some DUI Statistics That May Help Improve Arrests

states-most-DUI-arrestsWith public service announcements, campaigns to promote safe driving, and checkpoints on most nights, it’s absolutely astounding that people still make the decision to drink and drive. But drinking and driving they must be, because the latest statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that across the entire United States there were 1,166,824 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in 2013 alone.

Although it’s obvious people are getting arrested for DUI, it’s not as obvious exactly where most of these arrests are happening. That’s why a drug addiction resource center called Project Know decided to compile some statistics on state-wide DUI and which state you’re more likely to get arrested. Here’s a few highlights of what they found:

The Dakotas top the list

Out of all 50 states, North Dakota and South Dakota rank highest for DUI arrests in 2013—North Dakota had 87.3 arrests per 10,000 people and South Dakota had 63.1, well above the national average of 37.4. At the bottom of the list is Alabama, with only 0.5 arrests per 10,000.

Why is no one getting arrested in Boston?

Boston only had 792 arrests for DUI between 2011 and 2014, making it one of the few major cities with a dismal arrest record. Some have speculated that it was due to a lack of effort by local law enforcement.

Checkpoints not allowed in Washington State

There were 5,439 DUI arrests in Seattle, Washington between January 2013 to November 2014, and incredibly, Washington State does not allow checkpoints. That means that law enforcement is out there stopping drunk drivers one by one, and that’s good news for people who live in Seattle.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that over 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2013, so statistics like these from Project Know can be put to good use to stop DUI across the country. Maybe this study will motivate hot spots like Alabama and Boston to step up their DUI game and improve their arrest records.

Big Trouble For Man Who Bypassed His Ignition Interlock

cheat-ignition-interlock No one said it would be easy to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, but it is a privilege you may receive after making the mistake of drinking and driving. After all, in many states you can’t drive a car for a long time after a driving under the influence (DUI) charge without one.

Although it can be looked at as more of a privilege than a penalty, that doesn’t mean that some offenders don’t try to find a way around them. Many will stop after searching for ‘how to cheat an ignition interlock’ on the Web and coming up empty, while others will take more extreme measures. At least that’s what happened in Auburn, Massachusetts recently when one man managed to override his ignition interlock device, and it’s landed him in hot water.

Using an external drive of some kind, the man managed to bypass his ignition interlock and got behind the wheel drunk. But just because he managed to drive without his ignition interlock doesn’t mean the police aren’t keeping their eyes out for drunk drivers—after swerving and speeding on a highway at 3 am, he was pulled over by police.

He failed field sobriety tests and was arrested for his third offense of drunk driving and for tampering with his ignition interlock device, and at that point he was probably given a quick update by the officers about the penalties for tampering with one. Each driver who receives an ignition interlock in Massachusetts is required to sign an Ignition Interlock Operator’s Affidavit. As part of that affidavit, you agree to be held liable for violating your agreement, and the penalties are so severe you have to wonder what he was thinking when he tampered with it.

The simple act of not using the ignition interlock device when you’re supposed to will net you possible criminal penalties plus a maximum of 10 years driver’s license suspension. Tampering with the ignition interlock will land you in the house of correction for at least 6 months or the state prison for a minimum of 3 years.

Maybe this man’s example will deter anyone else who is thinking about tampering with an ignition interlock device. You might manage to drive away, but it will catch up with you in the end.

Don’t Be The Star Of Your Own Crazy DUI Story

driving under the influenceFriday’s are one of those days when people start to relax and look forward to the weekend and a fun night out. Because so many people head out for drinks with friends on Friday and Saturday nights, Friday morning is a great time for a little reminder – when you go out, don’t drink and drive. By taking a cab or having a designated driver, you could avoid an alcohol-related crash and a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. You could also avoid the public humiliation that comes with having your name splashed across news sites because you were the star of your own crazy driving under the influence story.

That’s what happened to William Peabody of Massachusetts recently. He was stopped after failing to move when a traffic light turned green, and instead of driving his car, he decided to stop and yell at the people who were honking at him to move. Police apprehended him and he promptly threw up in the back seat of the police cruiser. Instead of blowing when asked to take a breathalyzer test, he used the mouthpiece as a microphone to tell jokes to the police.

This was the third DUI offense for Peabody, with previous convictions in 1992 and 1996. According to Massachusetts DUI and operating under the influence (OUI) laws, his previous convictions are admissible because the lookback period for a previous DUI is life. As a third time offender, Peabody could receive up to 5 years in jail, fines up to $15,000, an 8 year driver’s license suspension, and an ignition interlock device when he is eligible to get his license back.

Peabody’s recent arrest and publication of his arrest should be a lesson to anyone who’s tempted to drink and drive after a night out. Not only do you have the potential to crash and injure or kill yourself or an innocent person, if you receive a DUI you could have your name, age, exact address, and every single detail of your arrest splashed across the Internet. And what goes online, stays online.

For more information on DUI and OUI laws in Massachusetts, see Guardian Interlock’s Massachusetts’s State Page.

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