PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island is set to become the 28th state in the nation to require ignition locks for those convicted of drunk driving.
The legislation unanimously passed both the House of Representatives and Senate last week, and will go into effect as soon as Gov. Gina Raimondo signs it into law.
Once signed by the governor, it will require those convicted of their first DUI to have an ignition interlock system installed into their car if they want to get behind the wheel again.
“For us, it’s a big win in regards to having more individuals use this technology,” said Eric Creamer, Executive Director of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The device is the size of a cell phone and wired into a vehicle’s ignition. A driver convicted of DUI would have to blow into the device, and if there is alcohol in their system the car won’t start.
“It’s not the silver bullet to end drunk driving, obviously, but it’s one of the best ways that we have right now at mass level to be able to stop individuals from doing the offense again,” Creamer explained.
According to MADD, ignition interlocks prevented more than 1.7 million attempts to drive under the influence in the U.S.
Rhode Island’s current law only allows judges to issue the devices to repeat offenders and those who were twice the legal limit.
The new bill, which expands to include first-time offenders, is similar to the laws for 27 other states, including Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.
“We’re always looking to try and strengthen current laws that would make DUI offenders have to be held accountable for their actions,” added Creamer.
Creamer also said the interlocks have shown to change behavior. He hopes it translates to safer roads in the future.
“We’re looking forward to a day where there will be no more victims and there will be no more drinking and driving ever again,” he said.
The measure comes on the heels of Rhode Island State Police arresting 10 people for allegedly driving drunk over the weekend. Police said one of the drivers had a 9-year-old child in the car.