Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released its annual Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving: 2014 Report to the Nation which rated states based on five criteria for effectively addressing drunk driving. The report is a blueprint for the nation to stop drunk driving deaths and highlights MADD’s number one legislative priority: ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.

MADD awarded Iowa two out of five stars and finds it to be one of the worst states for drunk driving laws. To improve its rating, the Iowa legislature must get tough on drunk driving and pass laws to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, legalize sobriety checkpoints and allow for no-refusal activities.

“Reducing drunk driving in Iowa begins with requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, starting with the first offense,” said MADD National President Jan Withers.

“Legislation [before Iowa lawmakers] has a proven track record of saving lives stopping drunk driving.”

SF 2103, authored by Senator Brian Schoenjahn, requires ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers with first-time offenders being required to use an interlock for six months and repeat offenders for at least one year. Currently, ignition interlocks are required in Iowa for all repeat and first-time offenders with a BAC of .10 or greater.  Twenty states including Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois have similar laws like SF 2103 already in place. HF 571, handled by Representative Chip Baltimore, is similar to SF 2103.

“As a drunk driving victim and MADD volunteer, I call on the Senate Transportation Subcommittee and House Judiciary Subcommittee to advance SF 2103 and HF 571,” said MADD Iowa volunteer Linda Chapman.

“My daughter and her friend were killed almost 10 years ago by a repeat offender drunk driver. If he had an interlock device on his 3/4 ton pickup truck I firmly believe both of these young people would be alive today. He had left an anniversary party on a Saturday night, estimated with a BAC of nearly 3 times the legal limit. He had been picked up for a DUI the previous Saturday night (his 2nd offense). Headed west on a 4-lane highway, he lost control of his truck, hit the median, became airborne and landed directly on their eastbound SUV, killing them.”

Drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable.  In 2012, 92 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Iowa—representing 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state.

“First-time” offenders are rarely first-time drunk drivers. Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted OWI offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested. License suspension alone is no longer a practical way to deal with drunk drivers. Research shows that 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive even with a suspended driver’s license. Ignition interlocks allow a convicted drunk driver to continue driving, but in a way that will protect families and other motorists.

“SF 2103 and HF 571 are not soft on crime. This legislation is our top legislative priority in every state because ignition interlocks teach convicted drunk drivers to drive sober in a way that will protect families and Iowa residents,” added Withers.

Currently, first-time convicted drunk drivers face unenforceable time or geographic driving restrictions. SF 2103 replaces this unworkable requirement with the use of ignition interlocks which require convicted drunk drivers to prove sobriety when driving on Iowa roads—which a time/geographic restricted license cannot accomplish.

SF 2103 would make Iowa’s OW law one of the strongest and most effective ignition interlock laws in the nation as convicted drunk drivers must use the device before regaining unrestricted driving privileges.

MADD hopes Iowa lawmakers take action on these lifesaving bills so Iowa becomes the 21st state to require interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers,” added Withers.

For more information on ignition interlocks, please visit www.madd.org/interlock.