The bill would mean that someone who has been found guilty of drunk driving would be required to install a device, similar to a breathalyzer, that must be blown into before the car would be able to start. The device prevents a driver with a BAC above the legal limit (0.08 in Mississippi) from turning on the car.
Under current law, judges are granted the discretion to order that a driver use an ignition interlock device, the new measure would make it mandatory. Another component of the bill would be requiring the driver to pay the expense of installing the device, which runs between $100 to $200 for installation in addition to a relatively small month fee.
The bill is very close to passing given that it has passed the House with only four dissenting votes and passed the Senate with only two no votes. Those who have voiced concern about the measure have raised issues about the costs of the device being imposed on drivers who simply cannot afford additional monthly bills. Another issue raised was the prospect of a false reading which can happen in cases where someone may have been taking cold medicine. Finally, others have complained that the bill does not go far enough to address all the substances that a driver could ingest and then lead to dangerous driving. For instance, the ignition interlock device has no way of detecting whether a driver is on prescription medications such as opiates or whether the driver has engaged in illegal drug use.
Gunn argues that the bill actually includes some benefits to those arrested for DUI, in that will enable the driver to get back behind the wheel sooner. Under current state law a person who has been convicted of drunk driving will have his or her license suspended for 90 days after their first offense. The only exception to this rule is if the driver is able to successfully plead for a hardship license. Under the proposed legislation, the license suspension would only be for 30 days so long as the ignition interlock was installed on the driver’s vehicle.
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) came to Gunn to advocate for the legislation, saying that other states have passed similar measures and seen a decrease in instances of repeat drunk driving as a result. MADD says that 17 other states, including several in the South, have passed similar mandatory ignition interlock laws.