BOSTON — Ignition interlock devices have prevented over 240,000 instances of drinking and driving in Massachusetts and more than 12.7 million nationwide in the past 10 years, according to a report presented Thursday as advocates pitched legislation to expand use of the devices.
Ignition interlocks, devices installed in cars that test the driver's blood alcohol content before starting the car, are required in Massachusetts for operators driving under a hardship license after two or more drunken driving convictions.
A bill (S 1895) before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation would require that anyone convicted of operating under the influence, including first-time offenders, have an ignition interlock device installed on all vehicles they drive.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. James Timilty, was joined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving representatives and other advocates at the State House Thursday to discuss the bill, which Timilty said would "dramatically increase safety" by cutting down on drunken driving.
"Nobody can 100 percent guarantee, but I think we significantly move the bar by passing this law," said Timilty, a Walpole Democrat.
The devices, according to MADD, have stopped more than 1.77 million attempts to drive with a blood alcohol content level at or above the legal limit of 0.08 since states first passed ignition interlock laws. In Massachusetts, the MADD report found interlocks prevented 37,983 driving attempts over the legal limit and 243,665 attempts by drivers with any alcohol in their system.
"Just imagine what the use of this device could mean in saving more lives, stopping more repeat drunk driving offenses if they were utilized for first-time offenders," said Frank Harris, MADD's national director of government affairs.
Twenty-five states require ignition interlocks for all offenders, according to MADD.