Alabama lawmakers in the State House voted on Thursday to close a loophole in the state’s drunk driving law in hopes of reducing drunk driving deaths.
The law received final passage from the house on the last day of session with a 78-14 vote for the bill. It now moves to the governor to be signed into law.
SB1, sponsored by Springville-Republican state Sen. Jim McClendon would require persons charged with driving under the influence to use an ignition interlock device after their first offense. An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a cell phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A convicted drunk driver must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, it prevents the vehicle from starting.
In 2014, Alabama became the 21st state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law, expanding the use of ignition interlocks to all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time convicted drunk drivers with an illegal BAC of .08 or greater. However, loopholes exist that allow first-time offenders to enter into diversion agreements or choose not to go on the interlock. SB1 closes that loophole and incentivizes more people to choose an interlock over choosing to drive illegally on a suspended license.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) the Yellowhammer State reduced drunk driving fatalities by 6.8 percent from 2014 to 2015 thanks to use of the device.