Interlock Rule Gets National Attention

N.M. Interlock Rule Gets National Attention

The national MADD organization today announced a campaign pushing
for the use of technologies like breath-test interlock devices in
vehicles for all those who have been convicted of drunken driving, even
after the first offense.

Only New Mexico has such a law for first offenders; other states
allow the device for repeat offenders.

But Terry Huertaz, executive director of New Mexico MADD, outlined a
long list of DWI victims at a news conference this morning aimed at
announcing, among other things, the holiday weekend’s super blitz of
DWI checkpoints.

“It doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten very far,” Huertaz said.

Among those in the audience today: Family members of Daniel
Magnuson, 46, and cousins Ray Martinez, 50, and Kenneth Martinez,
36.

Last Thanksgiving, the Martinez cousins had too much to drink and
hailed a cab driven by Magnuson. As Magnuson drove them home, a drunken
driver, Gabriel Gurule, struck the cab. All three were killed. Gurule
was later sentenced to eight years and fourth months.

The driver of the latest multi-fatal DWI crash can’t be charged;
Dana Papst died Nov. 12, a day after his truck struck a minivan
carrying a Las Vegas, N.M., family. Five of the six family members
died.

Papst had been arrested at least five times on DWI charges in
Colorado. He still had a valid New Mexico driver’s license.

The accident prompted Gov. Bill Richardson to form a DWI strike task
force, which meets Tuesday to brainstorm the next DWI offensive as the
nation enters the holiday weekend.

“We haven’t stopped,” Huertaz said of efforts like the interlocking
device. “We’re going to continue to move forward.”

In the first phase of the national plan, MADD, backed by a national
association of state highway officials and car manufacturers, announced
a campaign to change drunken-driving laws in 49 states to require that
even first offenders be made to install the device.

The organization, along with the U.S. Department of Transportation,
is pushing for such devices as well as tougher enforcement measures
around the country.

“If we can’t stop drunks from driving, we’ll stop vehicles from
driving drunks,” said Glynn Birch, president of MADD, at a news
conference in Washington, D.C. Birch said technology, along with
tougher laws and enforcement, has put eliminating drunken driving
“within our reach.”

The organization wants states to pass laws requiring breath-test
interlock devices in vehicles for all those who have been convicted of
drunken driving – even after the first offense. The device shuts down
the car if alcohol is detected.

MADD also wants states to implement more sobriety checkpoints. It
also wants to establish a panel of safety experts to explore other
technology options that would help prevent drunk driving.

“Drunk driving is a problem that is painful and persistent, but it’s
also preventable,” said Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters in a
statement. “Pairing the public and private sectors for the common good
is a powerful combination, one that will help us achieve real results
in terms of saving lives and preventing injuries.”

Each year, nearly 13,000 people are killed by drunk drivers with a
blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above and countless others are
injured, according to MADD.

Other organizations joining the campaign include the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Distilled Spirits Council
and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

November 20, 2006 Source:

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