Legislators from New Hampshire’s General Court did the right thing last Thursday. With their 2017 session winding down, they passed House Bill 420 and House Bill 448. These bills closed a couple of loopholes that have bedeviled New Hampshire’s interlock program for years.
HB 420 corrects a big oversight in the legislation that created their interlock program. Believe it or not, while first and repeat DUI offenders had to have interlocks before they could be reinstated, drunk drivers who killed did not have to get an interlock prior to being reinstated. That’s right, alcohol-related crashes causing death were left out. Once the legislators realized that, yes indeed, these drivers would get out of prison and be eligible to get a license, these same legislators did the right thing.
HB 448, while less headline grabbing, will have a bigger effect upon traffic safety. This bill gives the Division of Motor Vehicles the power to extend a participant’s interlock period for violations of rolling retests, tampering and removing the device without permission. This concept, called compliance based monitoring, is the hottest trend in improving interlock program effectiveness. States that have moved to this practice have found that the drunk drivers who have learned their lesson get through the ignition interlock device requirements without a hitch, but that more than half do not fit that category, and they are constantly getting extended because, indeed, they do have an alcohol problem. But the beauty of this is that these people can still safely keep their jobs, go to school, and be productive members of society because the interlock removes the possibility of them driving drunk again. Everyone wins with effective interlock programs.
Now let’s hope that Governor Sununu signs these bills as everyone expects him to.