Ignition interlock devices were designed to keep the roadways safe by barring inebriated people from driving their vehicles. The devices are so effective that many states require them to be installed in the vehicles of all convicted drunk drivers. Tennessee is one of these states. That’s why the death of Kenya Matthews, a Shelby county boy, came as even more of a shock upon discovering that the drunk driver who hit him was required to get an ignition interlock device months ago.
Matthew’s was struck by a drunk driver while riding his bike earlier this year. The driver, Melvin Williams, was just three months out of being arrested for reckless driving. Part of Williams’ sentence was installing an ignition interlock device on his vehicle before driving again, something he failed to do. Williams was still able to drive illegally because there are currently no follow-ups to check that convicted DUI offenders have the ignition interlock device installed. Because of this loophole in the system, Williams was able to avoid installing an ignition interlock device, as so he was once again able to drive while intoxicated and Kenya Matthews lost his life.
Stronger interlock laws will prevent deaths
Kenya Matthew’s father, Thaddeus Matthews, has decided to go forward with a lawsuit against Shelby Countyto raise awareness of this flaw in the system. Tennessee has a strong stance against drunk driving with its first offender law, but more needs to be done. The problem doesn’t end at Tennessee either; many states have these loopholes.
We can only hope that more steps are taken to ensure an offender installs an IID so more lives won’t be lost. Whether having the installer call the state to confirm installation, or having the offender bring their vehicle in for inspection, more can be done to keep our roads and communities safe.