Advocates’ Letter on New Jersey Ignition Interlock Device Law

  • September 21, 2018
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

September 21, 2018


The Honorable Nicholas P. Scutari


Senate Judiciary Committee

State House Annex

Trenton, New Jersey 08608


The Honorable Nia H. Gill

Vice Chair

Senate Judiciary Committee

State House Annex

Trenton, New Jersey 08608


Dear Chairperson Scutari and Vice Chairperson Gill:

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, safety, medical and public health groups, and insurance companies working together to pass highway and auto safety laws that prevent crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs, supports enactment of Senate Bill (S.) 824/Assembly Bill (A.) 2089 to require the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) by all convicted drunk drivers, including first time offenders.  We urge you to join the 32 other states, including neighboring New York and Delaware, that have made their streets and highways safer by enacting an all-offender IID law.

Drunk driving is a deadly and costly threat to New Jersey families.  In 2016, 177 people were needlessly killed in alcohol-involved crashes on New Jersey roads accounting for 30 percent of all traffic fatalities.[i]  The vast majority of these fatalities, 77 percent, involved a driver over the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC).[ii]  Moreover, all traffic crashes cost the state over $12.8 billion each year.[iii]  Clearly, this is a serious issue on New Jersey roads which requires urgent attention and the effective solution of an all-offender IID law.

Under current law in New Jersey, IIDs are required for refusals, repeat offenders and high BAC first-time offenders (.15 BAC or greater).  According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), from December 2006 to December 2016, IIDs have prevented 56,143 attempts to drive drunk in New Jersey.[iv]  Expanding this program to require all first time offenders to use IIDs would improve the effectiveness of the IID program and help prevent drunk driving on New Jersey roads.

A common misconception is that most people who are convicted of their first drunk driving offense are social drinkers who made a one-time mistake.  On average, a person arrested for impaired driving has driven drunk approximately 80 other times.[v]  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 4,000 are arrested.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that when IIDs are installed, there is about a 70 percent reduction in arrest rates for impaired driving.[vi]  Moreover, research shows that 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.[vii]

States that have adopted IID laws for all offenders are saving lives, reducing injuries and preventing drunk driving recidivism.  For example, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana have all experienced dramatic decreases of more than 30 percent in drunk driving deaths after enacting an all-offender IID law.[viii]  When West Virginia adopted its ignition interlock program, recidivism was reduced by 77 percent among first-time offenders.[ix]

Unfortunately, children are frequently innocent victims of drunk driving crashes when placed in a dangerous situation through no choice of their own.  In 2016, of the traffic fatalities involving children age 14 and younger, 214 children (17 percent) were killed in a crash involving alcohol, an 18 percent increase over 2015.[x]   From 2001 to 2010, approximately one in five child passenger (less than age 15) deaths in the U.S. involved drunk driving.  Of those cases 65 percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who had been drinking with a BAC of .08 percent or higher.  Furthermore, over 60 percent of child passengers of drunk drivers were not buckled up in the fatal crash.[xi]

Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash in this country.  In 2016, an average of one alcohol impaired driving fatality occurred every 51 minutes in America resulting in a total of 10,497 deaths.[xii]  According to MADD, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.  These tragic, preventable crashes also create a financial burden of $44 billion in economic costs and $201 billion in comprehensive costs to society.[xiii]

The American public strongly agrees that the use of IIDs is needed to address this public health crisis.  Nearly eight in ten Americans support requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.[xiv]  Furthermore, 82 percent of offenders themselves believe the IID was effective in preventing them from driving after drinking.[xv]

Traffic fatalities on New Jersey roads rose three consecutive years, 2013 – 2016, an 11 percent cumulative increase.  Improvements to traffic safety are urgently needed and IIDs provide a proven solution.  A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that all-offender IID laws reduce the number of impaired drivers in fatal crashes by 16 percent.[xvi]  IIHS noted that if all states upgraded to all-offender IID laws, more than 500 additional lives could be saved each year.

Advocates urges you to advance S. 824/A. 2089 to require this commonsense, lifesaving law to curb drunk driving.


Catherine Chase



[i] NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2016 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 812 450, October 2017.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] NHTSA, The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 (Revised), DOT HS 812 013, May 2015.

[iv] MADD, Ignition Interlock Laws in the United States of America, A look at how States implement ignition interlock laws, April 11, 2018.

[v] Arrest data: Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States: 2014” Incidence data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults — United States, 2012.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. August 7, 2015 / 64(30);814-817.

[vi] CDC, Increasing Alcohol Ignition Interlock Use – Successful Practices for States. Available here:

[vii] Peck, R.C., Wilson, R. J., and Sutton, “Driver license strategies for controlling the persistent DUI offender, Strategies for Dealing with the intent Drinking Driver.” Transportation Research Board, Transportation Research Circular (1995) No. 437.

[viii] MADD, How Technology Has Stopped 1.77 Million Drunk Drivers, February 2016. Available here:

[ix] Tippetts, A. Scott and Robert Voas. “The Effectiveness of the West Virginia Interlock Program.” Journal of Traffic Medicine 26 (1-2) (1998): 19-24.

[x] NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2016 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 812 450, October 2017, and NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2015 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 812 350. December 2016.

[xi] Quinlan K, Shults RA, Rudd RA. (2014). Child passenger deaths involving alcohol-impaired driversPediatrics, 133(6). Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-2318.

[xii] NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2016 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 812 450, October 2017

[xiii] NHTSA, The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 (Revised), DOT HS 812 013, May 2015.

[xiv] Caution Ahead: New Year’s Ranks As Deadliest Day On US Roads, Dec. 26, 2012, AAA article available at

[xv] Morse, BJ and DS Elliott. Hamilton County Drinking and Driving Study: 30 Month Report. Boulder, Colorado: University of Colorado, 1990.

[xvi] Teoh, Eric R.; Fell, James C.; Scherer, Michael; Wolfe, Danielle E.R. Locking Out Impaired Driving – Laws that require interlocks for all DUI offenders save lives. Status Report, Vol. 53, No. 2, March 29, 2018.