Drunk driving is a serious crime with severe public safety and financial implications. Alabama residents are currently subsidizing drunk driving at an alarming rate. The 259 people killed in DUI crashes in 2011 carry a comprehensive economic toll to taxpayers of at least $1.2 billion. The most current statistics show that more than 54,043 people in Alabama have three or more drunk driving convictions, and 22,306 have five or more convictions.
HB477 sponsored by Rep. Allen Farley and SB401 sponsored by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw have been introduced to save lives and eliminate drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes this lifesaving legislation to voluntarily expand the available use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers warrants the Legislature’s approval.
MADD has based its efforts to eliminate drunk driving on science-based research that finds 50 percent to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive even with a suspended driver’s license, and that license suspension alone is no longer a practical way to deal with drunk drivers. Additionally, studies show that first-time convicted drunk drivers are not first-time offenders, but rather it is simply the first time they have been caught. First-time offenders have driven drunk an average of 80 times before their first conviction.
Due to a 2011 Alabama law, interlocks are already required for refusals and all repeat offenders. Passage of HB477 and SB401 will effectively implement the use of interlocks for these offenders in the state.
I urge lawmakers to vote yes on HB477/SB401, which will implement Alabama’s ignition interlock program and incentivize the use of these devices for first time offenders. Voting yes on HB477/SB401 will make the state’s roads safer for Alabama families and reduce the cost of drunk driving — in terms of both dollars and lives.
Jan Withers is National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Washington.