By Bob Katzen

The House approved and sent to the Senate a proposal that would allow a court to order mandatory use of an interlock device for any driver who operated a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater. Under current law, ignition interlocks are an option for operators driving under a hardship license only after two or more drunken driving convictions.

The Bay State currently stands alone as the only state in which a person convicted of drunken driving for the first time is not given the option to install an ignition interlock device which requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting the vehicle. The device determines whether the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is above or below a preset legal limit. If the result is above the limit, the car will not start.

Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster), a former police officer, supports the amendment and has also sponsored a separate bill that he says would essentially do the same as the amendment. “Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that does not allow for interlocks for first offenders in lieu of license suspension,” said Whelan. “This bill is strongly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).”

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