*Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 28, 2019, and was updated on March 28, 2019, to reflect the bill’s passage.
Lawmakers in Kentucky are taking measures to strengthen DUI laws in the state. Last week, Senate Bill 85 passed the Senate unanimously and is now under consideration in the House. The measure is supported by the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
This bill would make ignition interlock devices available to all drunk driving offenders in the state. KDA President Eric Gregory noted the new law would bring increased accountability for DUI offenders. MADD President Helen Witty stated that ignition interlocks are “the only technology we have today that separates the drinker from the car.”
Current Kentucky Law
In 2018, Kentucky ranked number eight out of the top 10 states with the worst DUI problems (Backgroundcheck.org). In fact, in 2017 alone, Kentucky had more than 24,500 DUI arrests. Proponents of the bill want to prevent people from getting behind the wheel after they’ve had too much to drink, and ignition interlock devices are the best way to accomplish that goal.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, observed on the Senate floor, “If we had equipped more drivers with ignition interlock devices, we wouldn’t have nearly as many DUIs, we wouldn’t have nearly as many crashes or fatalities.”
Kentucky’s current law requires repeat DUI offenders and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .15 to install an ignition interlock device. Although first-time offenders with a BAC lower than .15 in Kentucky receive a 30–120-day license suspension, there is not an IID requirement.
This loophole has allowed many drunk drivers to ignore the suspension and continue to put others’ lives at risk. MADD reports that states that adopt all-offender ignition interlock laws see a 16 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities. States that require devices only for repeat offenders see just a three percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities. Learn more about drunk driving statistics here.
Senate Bill 85
Kentucky passed drunk driving legislation in 2015, but SB 85 would strengthen the current law. The bill proposes several new provisions:
- Ignition interlock devices would be available to all drunk driving offenders.
- First-time offenders would be incentivized to install an IID by facing less severe penalties.
- First-time offenders who choose to not install an IID will face more rigid penalties.
- All repeat offenders would continue to be required to install an IID.
- The ignition interlock program would become compliance based, meaning offenders would have to complete a 120-day period of driving sober as part of the court-mandated program.
- The ignition interlock program would be administered by the Transportation Cabinet, which would add five staff members to assist in running the program.
All Offender Legislation
Currently, 32 states and Washington, D.C., require all offenders to install ignition interlock devices. South Carolina also has legislation pending a vote which would require all offenders to install a device. Ignition interlock devices are proven to reduce recidivism, prevent drunk driving and save lives. Learn more about how ignition interlock devices save lives.
SB 85 passed the Kentucky House unanimously on the last day of the regular session, and on March 25, 2019, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed the bill into law, which will require any person convicted of drunk driving to install an ignition interlock device in their car or face a longer license suspension. Kentucky will become the 33rd state to have an all-offender IID law, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020.
If you are located in Kentucky and need information about an ignition interlock device in your state, you can learn more here.