February 03, 2011

Senators Lautenberg, Tom Udall Introduce Legislation to Stop Drunk Driving Repeat Offenders

Super Bowl Sunday is One of the Deadliest Days for Drunk Driving

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With Super Bowl Sunday marking one of the worst days for drunk driving fatalities, U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Udall (D-NM) today introduced legislation to keep drunk drivers off the road by requiring the use of ignition interlock technology for all convicted drunk driving offenders. The ignition interlock is an electronic breath testing system connected to a vehicle that prevents the ignition from starting if the driver's blood alcohol content exceeds a pre-set limit. Under the Lautenberg-Udall proposal, states that decide not to use the technology would lose a portion of their federal transportation funding.

"Far too often, Super Bowl Sunday is marred by reckless drunk driving tragedies," said Sen. Lautenberg. "Someone in our country dies every 50 minutes from an alcohol-related car crash, often at the hands of a repeat drunk driver. Ignition interlocks bring the sobriety checkpoint to the car and keeps drunk drivers off our roads. This legislation would prevent thousands of tragic accidents and save countless lives every year."

"Holidays and special events trigger senseless drunk driving incidents that can be stopped by implementing an aggressive ignition interlock penalty program," said Sen. Udall. "New Mexico was the first state to attack the epidemic of drunk driving with this approach and the strategy has helped save lives. I believe enacting it nationwide would have the same positive and resounding effect."

In 2009, Super Bowl Sunday was the second worst day of the year for drunk driving fatalities, behind News Year's Day. That year, 65 people throughout the country were killed because of drunk driving on Super Bowl Sunday and into the early morning hours of the next day.

"MADD applauds Senator Lautenberg and his leadership on the DDROP Act. This legislation has the potential to save thousands of lives and is a key component of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving," said MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney.

Statistics show that 50 to 75 percent of drunk drivers whose licenses are suspended continue to drive, demonstrating a clear need for additional protections. A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that re-arrest rates decreased by 73 percent when an ignition interlock device was installed.

The Lautenberg-Udall bill mandates states to require an ignition interlock for a minimum of six months for all drunk driving offenders. States that fail to comply with this mandate will face a reduction in federal transportation funding if they do not change their laws by Fiscal Year 2014. Currently, eleven states have laws that require an ignition interlock for all drunk driving offenders: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nebraska, Washington, New York, and Oregon.

The "Drunk Driving Repeat Offender Prevention Act of 2011" is co-sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Begich (D-AK).

During his tenure in the Senate, Lautenberg has fought to reduce drunk driving and underage drinking through a series of legislative victories. Senator Lautenberg wrote the law that lowered the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 in all 50 states. He also authored the law that established a national legal drinking age of 21, which has helped save thousands of lives across the country.