Mothers Against Drunk Driving urges the House to pass legislation that would close loop-holes in current law allowing first-time drunk driving offenders to avoid ignition interlock devices.

If passed, House Bill 580 by Rep. Royce Duplessis would be the most significant DWI reform bill in Louisiana in more than a decade.

HB 580 recently passed out of the House Transportation Committee with unanimous sup-port and now awaits a full hearing on the House Floor. Mothers Against Drunk Driving strongly urges a “yes” vote.

“Drunk driving is a vicious, violent crime that is preventable 100 percent of the time,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was killed by an alcohol and marijuana impaired teen driver.

“Ignition interlocks are the only technology available today that separate drinking from driving, and we must ensure that the law is reaching every eligible first-time offender. HB 580 does that, and I applaud Rep. Duplessis for his lifesaving work.”

In 2007, Louisiana lawmakers passed an all-offender ignition interlock law that requires convicted drunk drivers to provide a sober breath sample before their cars will start, and it is working. Drunk driving deaths in Louisiana fell 43 percent between 2006 and 2017, accord-ing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drunk driving deaths decreased by 22 percent nationally during the same period.

Over the last 12 years, ignition interlocks have prevented more than 103,000 attempts to drive drunk in Louisiana. Yet the law is not reaching every eligible first-time offender, and drunk driving remains a problem in Louisiana. According to NHTSA, 212 people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes in Louisiana in 2017, representing 28 percent of total traffic deaths.

Current law allows a drunk driving offend-er to opt out of the interlock requirement by serving part or all of a license suspension. HB 580 would require an interlock with all hard-ship licenses and upon reinstatement of driving privileges after the first offense.

“Ignition interlocks not only save lives. They also teach sober driving,” said MADD Louisiana Program Director Valerie Cox. “Other states that have adopted laws like HB 580 have seen a reduction in recidivism of up to 67 percent.”

In addition to closing loopholes in the current law, HB 580 also: Reduces fees for low-income defenders by 50 percent to make sure that a first offense has affordable solutions for treatment. Increases oversight and requirements for the makers of interlock devices, including upgraded technology for device calibration, and manufacturer funding for service and data collection. Allows for credit for early use of the inter-lock. Requires compliance-based removal before defendants can regain their regular driver’s license.

MADD Louisiana asks concerned citizens to make their voices heard by emailing state lawmakers here in support of HB 580.

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