AUSTIN, Texas - Mothers against Drunk Driving endorsed new legislation Tuesday that would put all drunk drivers under a new lockdown law.
Ignition interlock devices are required, by state law, for repeat drunk drivers. Those who are caught with a blood alcohol content of .15 or more are also required to install the devices. HB 2246 would expand that requirement to first-time offenders. Dallas Republican Jason Villalba says his bill was drafted to be a hammer and a helping hand.
"Currently what happens is, an individual has a first time offense and they are prohibited from driving for up to a year, cannot drive at all, for their jobs, for their school, whatever, with this we say look if you have this device on your car the judge may provide the ability for this ability to drive during that year," said Rep. Villalba.
Ignition interlocks prevent vehicles from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath. Cameras and fingerprint readers are used to prevent someone, other than the offender, from starting the car. 24 states already require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
According to a news release by Mothers Against Drunk Driving; New Mexico and Arizona have seen a 40% and 45% reduction in drunk driving deaths since passing laws similar to the Bill Texas lawmakers will now debate.
"I know this kind of legislation will often meet resistance but we think its good policy we think it's carefully tailored, its common sense and one thing we all agree on, we have to get drunk drivers off the street," said Villalba.
Data for Texas, collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows there were 1,337 drunk driving fatalities in 2013. The Centers for Disease Control claims ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses by 67% when compared to license suspensions.
"They can already drive under an Occupational License, and the only way you can get an Occupational License in Texas is to go to the judge," said Defense attorney Jeremiah Williams.
The proposed legislation, according to Williams, is not necessary and is excessive.
"So the judge has the ultimate authority on this, and what this is, is binding the judges powers not allowing them to make these cases by case, decision by decisions, and tailor making each condition for probation for each defendant," said Williams.
If approve by state lawmakers and signed by the governor, the new ignition interlock law will take effect in September.