Fighting Drunken Driving at the 2011 Legislature

by Doug Harcleroad (Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance)


Legislative focus – Ignition interlock devices

The focus this legislative session is on technology to prevent intoxicated driving.  The equipment is called an alcohol ignition interlock device.  It is a small, sophisticated device – about the size of a cell phone – which is installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle.  The driver must blow into the device; and if a predetermined amount of alcohol or more is in the driver’s system, then the car won’t start.  And…there are “rolling retests,” so the driver can’t start drinking after initially blowing into the device to get the car started.

Three legislative bills requiring alcohol ignition interlock devices

  • 1) House Bill 3075 is my personal favorite because it has the widest application.  Each year about 10,000 intoxicated drivers enter into a year-long diversion program designed to help them quit drinking and driving.  HB 3075 requires these people to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle they drive for the entire time they are in the diversion program.  In this way, if they are otherwise licensed to drive, then the rest of us are assured they will be sober when driving.  The offenders pay all the costs of the ignition interlock devices.

HB 3075A has passed the House of Representatives and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee because there are fees each offender must pay that go into the intoxicated driver fund.

  • 2) House Bill 3324 applies to a few hundred very serious drunken drivers each year.  HB 3324 requires these very serious offenders to install ignition interlock devices for 5 years.  While this may seem like a long time, one must remember that the bill only applies to intoxicated drivers who, as part of their intoxicated driving, have been convicted of very serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault in the first degree, aggravated vehicular homicide, or had their driving privileges permanently revoked and reinstated after 10 years.

The $50 fee assessed against the wrongdoers, and included in the bill, pays for the Department of Transportation’s costs to administer the program.

HB 3324A has passed the House of Representatives and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

  • 3) Senate Bill 504 closes a loophole in existing law.  Currently, some convicted intoxicated drivers never have a required ignition interlock device installed on their car.  They simply wait until their suspension expires and then apply to get a driver’s license.  This would not be so bad except that research shows over 50% of suspended drivers drive anyway. SB 504 would require these drivers to submit proof of installation of the interlock device when they apply to get their license back.  Failure to provide this proof results in their license suspension continuing indefinitely.

SB 504A passed the Senate on April 29, 2011.

These three bills, if passed, would make us all safer on the highways of Oregon.  Keeping intoxicated drivers off the roadways saves lives and reduces injury accidents.  Remember, in 2010, 115 people were killed in alcohol-influenced crashes, and hundreds of people were seriously injured.