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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kentucky General Assembly Passes Keene's DUI Interlock Bill

Dennis Keene. Twitter. 
Legislation on its way to signing by Governor Steve Beshear

The Kentucky House of Representatives voted yesterday to accept a compromise Senate Bill 133, which is a hybrid of legislation repeatedly filed by Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder) and modified provisions passed by the Senate. This is the first time interlock devices will become mandatory for convicted drunk drivers in the Commonwealth.

“The final passage today of mandatory interlock legislation in Kentucky is not everything we fought for but it is a good start at keeping drunk drivers from operating a vehicle and saving families from the devastation caused by drunk driving crashes,” said Rep. Keene.  “Legislating is about working together and sometimes includes compromise.  While we will never compromise on saving lives, SB133 opens the door to a new way of combating the problem of driving while intoxicated.  The use of interlock devices is proven to save lives and I feel confident we are on the right path for Kentucky’s citizens.”

For six years Dennis Keene has been working on this important life-saving legislation.   Senate Bill 133 will require individuals convicted of repeated drunk driving offenses to install an ignition interlock device, which would test the operators breath for alcohol before allowing the engine to start without any cost to the taxpayers. MADD, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Anheuser Busch, AAA and other groups support mandatory interlock laws.  First time offenders will be required to install interlock devices only if there are aggravating circumstances, some of which include having a child in the car, driving 30 miles over the speed limit, or causing injury to another individual.  The interlock devices are paid for by the convicted offender, at no cost to the taxpayers.

Representative Dennis Keene nearly lost his daughter Kelly Keene Jones in a drunk driving accident in 2002.  She required three subsequent surgeries in order to overcome her injuries and now Kelly is an outspoken advocate for tougher DUI laws.

The legislation includes a provision for indigent funding which was a point of contention during previous legislative sessions.

As a result of the federal highway bill (MAP-21) passed by Congress in 2012, by enacting the proposal included in HB 60, Kentucky would qualify each year for approximately $300,000 in interlock incentive grant funds from the federal government.  Twenty-four states have passed  all-offender ignition interlock laws.

According to Robyn Robertson of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada, “Ignition interlock devices are designed to protect the public by incapacitating drunk drivers. Evaluation of interlock use shows a 35-90% recidivism, with an average of 64%,” said Ms. Robertson.

“The cost of the alcohol interlock device is about $3-4 a day or about the cost of a drink or about the cost of a gallon of gas,” Robertson said.  “There will be no cost to the Kentucky taxpayers if the program is enacted; all costs are borne by the convicted offenders.”

According to MADD, ignition interlock devices are proven to save lives.  “States with all-offender interlock laws have been a reduction in drunk driving deaths of up to 45 percent, according,” according to the MADD website.

Press Release. 

Representative Dennis Keene has served the citizens of the 67th District since 2005 and is the chairman of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee, Vice Chairman of Economic Development, Vice Chairman on the Budget Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Banking & Insurance Committee.  Keene is a small business owner and an economic development advisor for EGC Construction. 

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