RI judges can now impose ignition interlocks on DUI offenders

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new law that went into effect in Rhode Island Thursday aims to keep those who drive while drunk off the state’s roads.

The law gives judges and magistrates the authority to prohibit people who’ve been convicted of DUI from operating a vehicle that’s not equipped with an ignition interlock system.

Once installed, the driver has to breathe into a device, much like a breathalyzer, in order to start their car. In Rhode Island, the person’s blood-alcohol content must be below .02 in order to pass the test.

Rhode Island State Police said other states using the devices on average saw a two-thirds reduction in repeat offenses.

“It’s definitely a valuable tool in our toolbox to combat the DWI problem,” said Lt. Michael Rosa. “It’s not an end-all, we still need people to act responsible and don’t drink and drive. That’s the bottom line.”

Rosa said the number of fatal accidents in Rhode Island was down in 2014, but it remains a nationwide problem.

“In 2013, 10,076 people died in the United States unnecessarily of fatal crashes with alcohol involved. If you break it down, one person dies every 52 minutes in the United States. That’s a shame.”

The bill was submitted at the request of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who says the ignition interlocks should help keep the number of fatal accidents on the decline. He released a statement on the matter Thursday.

“Despite increased enforcement and prosecution, too many people continue to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Stripping an individual of his or her license for three or six months is not always a deterrent from them offending again. Allowing the courts the ability to order the installation of the ignition interlock system as a condition of a DUI sentence is in the best interest of public safety, as it will help to ensure that DUI offenders do not get behind the wheel of their motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, endangering others on our roadways.”

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