OUR OPINION: Block cars’ ignition; prevent drunk driving

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn’s effort to enact a law requiring convicted DUI offenders to use an “interlock” device on their vehicles to prevent their driving if a breath test shows their blood-alcohol level is above legal limits is in conference committee, and it is a proven idea that should become law.
The device, first used in 1986 in California, is required now in 40 states for DUI offenders, either first or subsequent offenses, with the required period of use varying with the severity of the DUI and the number if it’s a repeat offense.
The device blocks engine ignition if the breath analysis detects alcohol.
Mississippi, like several other states, allows a judge to order use of the device for a DUI conviction, but it is not required.
Gunn, R-Clinton, approaches advocacy for requiring its use having lost his parents and his sister to a DUI accident when he was a law school student at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Gunn is not alone in his personal pain. Thousands of Mississippians by kinship and friendship have had grim encounters with DUI-related death and severe injury – always preventable if the drunk driver had been sober, or if an interlock device had prevented driving.
Gunn is also far from alone in pushing for required use in Mississippi.
MADD – the organization officially founded as Mothers Against Drunk Driving – has thrown its organizational networking and its passion behind the effort in Mississippi and other states.
Its effort is called the Campaign To Eliminate Drunk Driving, using both conventional law enforcement methods and technology like the interlock devices.
Its campaign literature speaks with clarity:
“One of the most effective ways to prevent a convicted drunk driver from re-offending is to make sure that he or she will not be able to start his or her vehicle while impaired. The ignition interlock does just that.”
Had a multiple DUI offender who admitted in court this month that he was drunk when he struck another vehicle, killing one of its occupants, been under an interlock sentence he arguably would not have been able to drive, causing that death. He previously had been pardoned for a DUI offense by former Gov. Haley Barbour.
The campaign to eliminate drunk driving is worth the effort.