|"Imagine MU's Faurot Field packed to full capacity with 70,000 screaming black-and-gold clad football fans. Now imagine every single one of these fans has alcohol-related driving offenses." Sally Oxenhandler of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot), further explains, "That's about the same number of people that could be affected by Missouri's new ignition interlock law."
Senate Bill 930/947 was passed last year by an overwhelming margin in the Missouri General Assembly and signed into law in July of 2008. It was approved in the Senate by a vote of 29-5, and in the House by a vote of 132-13.
Offenders of Missouri's alcohol-related driving laws, convicted more than twice of a driving while intoxicated offense, must install ignition interlock devices in the vehicles they drive. It impacts new offenders as well as past offenders who have not yet reinstated their driving privileges. Requiring an ignition interlock device will still be an option judges may impose at sentencing, but under the new law it will be an automatic requirement for certain repeat offenders, and it will be administratively enforced by the Missouri Department of Revenue.
An ignition interlock device is a breath-testing instrument connected to a vehicle’s ignition, horn and headlights. To start the vehicle, a driver must breathe into the device without registering a detectable blood alcohol concentration.
"This law will help us crack down on the bad decisions that cause deadly crashes," said Leanna Depue, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, a group that is partnering with law enforcement to reverse the deadly trend.
There are some general guidelines on who will be affected, according to a statement by the Missouri Department of Revenue. If a driver receives an “alcohol-related offense” and has a previous alcohol offense on his or her record, the driver may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in order to reinstate their driving privilege. An “alcohol-related offense” is defined as any license suspension or revocation under the state’s administrative alcohol laws, a refusal to submit to an alcohol/drug test in certain situations or a conviction for any other offense related to driving while intoxicated. This definition also applies to Missouri drivers who have committed these offenses in other states.
The device must be certified and approved. Once a driver has had the device installed and had his/her driving privileges reinstated, the device must remain in the vehicle for at least six months. The driver is also required to report to a certified vendor once a month to ensure that the device is working properly.
The summer months are often the deadliest months. For the past four years, Missouri has recorded the highest number of fatal and serious injury crashes between July and September. Between July and September 2008, 251 people were killed and 1,820 suffered disabling injuries.
Missouri law enforcement will be turning up the heat this summer not only on impaired, but speeding and unbuckled drivers. A new summer enforcement campaign, "The HEAT Is On" begins June 30, 2009 and will include 70 days of high enforcement action teams.
For stats on accidents in Southwest Missouri go here.