TRENTON - Governor Phil Murphy today enacted a new law expanding the use of ignition interlock device for those convicted of drunk driving offenses and of refusing breath tests. The legislation (S824) also reduces the length of license suspension and forfeitures for these offenses.
“Expanding the use of ignition interlock devices is just common sense,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “We must deter drunk driving without negatively impacting individuals’ ability to take care of themselves or their families. License suspensions are an imperfect tool for accomplishing both aims, as they do not stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and they can prevent ex-offenders from supporting their livelihoods. In contrast, ignition interlock devices prevent drunk driving while allowing ex-offenders to support themselves and their families.”
“Ignition interlock systems have saved hundreds of lives and significantly decreased crashes due to impaired driving,” said New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chair and Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “Safety is at the center of everything we do here at NJMVC, so we support installing these systems as a strong, effective alternative to driver suspensions.”
This measure requires that first time offenders install ignition interlock devices (IID), at a cost to the offender. IIDs and suspensions from then on are based upon the severity of the offense.
The legislation further requires the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to issue a summary report containing information on drunk driving offenders that are required to install an IID, on a semi-annual basis.
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senators Nicholas Scutari and Joseph Lagana, and Assemblymembers Joann Downey and Daniel Benson.
“Drunk driving is a serious issue in New Jersey,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari. “Having been a prosecutor for 16 years, my experience is that the use of ignition interlocks is the best way to safe guard our roads while also allowing minor offenders to continue their employment.”
“The numbers show that requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device is the most effective way to prevent repeat offenses and ultimately reduce deaths caused by drunk driving,” said Senator Joseph Lagana. “You simply cannot drive drunk with one in your vehicle because the engine will not even start if you are intoxicated. This law will make our roads safer to travel for all of our residents.
“There is strong evidence that interlock devices are effective in reducing re-arrest rates while they are installed in offenders’ vehicles. A more widespread and sustained use of interlocks among people arrested for DUI could have a substantial impact on reducing alcohol-related crashes,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey. “Traditionally, the penalty for intoxicated driving has been a suspension of the driver’s license, but in the absence of a driver’s license, the individual may not be able to get to work, or, if their job requires driving, perform their duties. This can lead to the loss of employment, which can in turn lead to emotional consequences such as depression, thereby encouraging more of the substance abuse that led to the penalty in the first place.”
“This law is an important step in improving safety by updating the definition of impaired driving for the realities of today's opioid crisis and the potential for expansion of marijuana access, whether medicinal or commercial,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson. “Also, by using alternatives to suspensions, such as interlock devices, we can reduce opportunities for drunk driving by offenders who may be tempted to drive while on suspension.”
“This law represents the most significant DWI reform in New Jersey in nearly a decade,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was killed by a drunk driver while rollerblading on a bike path after school. “We are so grateful to Governor Murphy, Senator Scutari, Assemblywoman Downey and all of the lawmakers, volunteers, staff and traffic safety partners who have worked for years to add New Jersey to a growing list of states that recognize all-offender laws like this one save lives.”
“I want to thank Governor Murphy for signing this law that will save lives. I was nearly killed by a drunk driver during my senior year at The College of New Jersey, and I know the anguish this violent, preventable crime inflicts on survivors and family members,” said Steven Benvenisti, Esq., Partner at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, a former MADD National Board Member, longtime MADD New Jersey volunteer, who has worked for years to pass an all-offender interlock law in New Jersey. “In 2018, ignition interlocks kept 13,500 drunk drivers off our roads. Now this lifesaving technology will be used to its fullest potential.”