Tim Maglione has said Ohio can do more to prevent the suffering and death caused by alcohol-impaired driving and believes that requiring ignition interlocks for all OVI offenders would be a step in the right direction.
“Ohio physicians are far too familiar with the devastating consequences of drunk driving,” said Maglione, senior director of government relations for the Ohio State Medical Association.
“Doctors see first-hand the tragic injuries and fatalities caused by those who drive while impaired by alcohol. In 2012 alone, OVI-related crashes resulted in 431 deaths and 7,299 injuries in our state.”
During the same year, 40 percent of all fatal crashes in Ohio were caused by drunk drivers.
“Because of these astounding statistics, the OSMA believes it is imperative to strengthen Ohio’s laws relating to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol to prevent these types of accidents.
House Bill 469, sponsored by Reps. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, and Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, would require first-time offenders who are convicted of OVI to have an ignition interlock breathalyzer installed on their car.
The bill also would require all repeat alcohol OVI offenders to use ignition interlock devices when granted any kind of driving privileges for the duration of a license suspension.
“The bill smartly follows the advice of the National Traffic Safety Board and the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, which both advise all states to adopt legislation to requiring ignition interlock devices for first-time OVI offenders,” Maglione said, noting that the NHTSA has studied the effectiveness of ignition interlocks for the past 20 years.
“They have consistently shown the devices can save lives by reducing recidivism among OVI convicted drivers by 50-90 percent.”
While current Ohio law requires interlock use for repeat offenders, the devices are optional for first-time offenders.
“It is important to have all offenders use these devices because many so-called “first time offenders” have a history of driving while impaired without being caught,” Maglione said.
“In fact, NHTSA reports that OVI offenders admitted to driving while impaired approximately 50-200 times before being arrested for an OVI offense.”
In addition to its other aims, HB 469 would authorize a court to double the period of license suspension and the time for which a first-time offender must drive with an ignition interlock device if the court receives notice from the entity that monitors the IID that the IID was tampered with, circumvented or prevented the offender from starting the motor vehicle.
The bill also would permit a court to require that a first-time offender wear an alcohol monitor upon receipt of notice that the offender’s IID had been compromised.
In moving through the legislative process, changes were accepted to the bill including expanding its definition of “first-time offender” to mean a person who refuses to take an alcohol-related chemical test and has no prior refusals within six years.
Other revisions include expressly prohibiting a court from granting limited driving privileges to a first-time offender and permitting any offender who fails or refuses to take an alcohol-related chemical test to petition for authority to drive with an IID.
Although HB 469 is hailed by the OSMA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Ohio State Bar Association has opposed the proposed legislation.
“Although the OSBA agrees with the bill’s objective of reducing incidents of impaired driving, the bill raises several concerns for the bar,” said Todd Book, OSBA director of policy and government affairs.
“First, as outlined in the Ohio Judicial Conference letter of Sept. 29, 2014, it reduces judicial discretion in handling OVI cases. Judicial discretion is paramount in these types of cases with relatively low recidivism rates. Second, it will increase the number of trials and administration license suspension hearings; thereby further burdening the criminal justice system.”
Lastly, Book said the legislature has been opposed to using a driver’s license as a tool for punishment.
“The extra burden created by the mandatory interlock restrictions will serve as such a punishment,” he said, adding that the association wants to work with lawmakers to make modifications to the bill.
HB 469 is before the House Judiciary Committee.
The measure has gained bipartisan support from Reps. Brian Hill, Michael Stinziano, Jack Cera, Nick Barborak, Ron Young, Connie Pillich, Nickie Antonio, Heather Bishoff and Ryan Smith.