According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were more than 10,000 DUI-related fatalities in 2010. NHTSA also reports that DUI-related traffic crashes cost an estimated $37 billion annually. And although many of us are likely familiar with these statistics, they attest to the truth of the matter: the social consequences of drunk driving are severe.
In response, Mothers Against Drunk Driving tirelessly seeks to reciprocate by lobbying for equally severe consequences for DUI offenders. And partly due to MADD’s efforts, ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are becoming more widely used across the states. For over a decade now, IIDs have been used in Mississippi to combat repeat offenses. But up until now, Mississippi law only applied the use of IIDs to repeat offenders (second and subsequent convictions); many, including MADD, feel that this is not enough.
According to a MADD press release, they have instituted a campaign to require all DUI offenders, even first-time offenders, to have IIDs installed on their vehicles. As part of their campaign, MADD claims that the use of IIDs reduces repeat offenses by two-thirds. But similar figures were mentioned in a 2009 NHTSA report, stating that IIDs reduced recidivism rates by an average of 46 percent, with a high of 90 percent. However, the NHTSA report also concluded that recidivism rates generally returned to normal once the IID was removed from the vehicle. But no matter how fleeting, IIDs appear to have a substantial impact.
In 2012, MADD successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Moving Forward for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which incentivizes the states, through the use of federal aid money, to implement IID programs for DUI offenders. And with the promise of federal aid money combined with MADD’s tenacious lobbying efforts, state lawmakers are giving further consideration to the implementation of more inclusive IID programs. Particularly in Mississippi, Representatives Philip Gunn and Chris Brown have introduced House Bill 481. The proposed amendment to Mississippi’s DUI statutes would make IIDs mandatory for even first-time DUI offenders, and it would also establish a new driver’s license for DUI offenders. Anyone convicted of a DUI would be required to have an IID installed in their vehicle, and their license would be restricted to exclusively to IID-equipped vehicles.
Similar bills have previously been introduced in Mississippi, but with no success. However, there is talk of growing support for this year’s bill. According to the rumor mill around the state capital, it is very possible that the bill will become law. In fact, H.B. 481 passed committee on February 5, 2013, and is now headed out for the next vote; this would seem to indicate that the rumors might be true. And in light of available statistics, such a law has the potential to substantially, albeit temporarily, reduce DUI recidivism. So while it may not be the most ideal solution, it is obviously gaining support; we shall see if it becomes law.
For more information on Mississippi DUI law and related matters, please visit our website: http://www.mississippidui.com/