Lawmakers fail to fix flawed DUI law - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawmakers fail to fix flawed DUI law

Carol McNamee Carol McNamee

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill that would have made our streets safer -- without additional cost to taxpayers --- ran into a road block at the state capitol. The bill to fix Hawaii's flawed ignition interlock law failed to pass in the legislature despite what seemed to be universal support when the legislative session began.

The ignition interlock law went into effect January 1, 2011. It enables people convicted of drunk driving to install the device in their vehicle rather than have their driver's license revoked. The ignition interlock device prevents vehicles from starting if it detects alcohol on a driver's breath.

"I think it is a win win because the offender who installs an interlock device in his or her car can keep driving as long as they are sober. And the public wins because they know that even though this person is driving, they can't have alcohol in their system," said Carol McNamee, who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Hawaii.

The law was supposed to allow first time offenders and repeat offenders to have ignition interlock installed in their vehicles. But the law is flawed as it pertains to repeat offenders.

Another provision of Hawaii law mandates anyone arrested for more than one DUI surrender their vehicle registration and license plates. Without registration and plates, people cannot drive nor can they have an ignition interlock installed.

As a result, repeat offenders - who may be habitual drunk drivers – cannot participate in the ignition interlock program.

"It's a safety situation. Without the interlock they could be possibly driving on the highway posing a threat to the public," McNamee said.

MADD pushed for the interlock law to be amended. Representative Sharon Har introduced a bill that would have fixed the flaw. But as that bill moved through the legislature it was amended. Senator Clayton Hee, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee did not like the changes so he refused to hear the bill in committee, and that is where it died.

"Repeat offenders lost because they now still can't have the interlock. And the public loses because I think it would have increased the safety on our highways," McNamee said.

Hee, Har, and MADD vow to try again next year to change the law so it covers repeat offenders. But until then those often dangerous drivers still are not eligible for ignition interlock.

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