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NJ Drunk Drivers Could Get Restricted Licenses [AUDIO]

A new bill sluggishly making its way through the New Jersey legislature revises penalties for various drunk driving offenses.

Flickr User VCU CNS

It mandates the installation of an ignition interlock device in the one or more motor vehicles owned, leased, or principally operated by the offender.

It also allows the operation of such vehicles under a restricted use driver’s license so the offender can get back and forth to work.

“Essentially New Jersey has had a penalty system for driving while intoxicated that has been largely ineffective,” says Sen. Nick Scutari, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is actually going to have the effect of safeguarding the motoring public from drunk driving.”

During the restricted use licensing period, the license would limit the offender to driving for the purpose of traveling to and from the offender’s place of employment or for pursuing employment, and as otherwise permitted as set forth in the court order.

For a second offender who does not own or lease a motor vehicle, or if there is no motor vehicle the offender principally operates, the period of forfeiture of the right to operate a motor vehicle on the second offense would be the same as the period for which the ignition interlock device would have been installed (not less than two years or more than four years).

“It’s going to allow people to maintain their employment, but it’s really going to safeguard the public by not allowing people to repeat offend because it’s going to basically not allow them to start their car if they’re inebriated,” explains Scutari.

Opponents argue that someone else could start the car and the convicted drunk driver could get behind the wheel. Scutari says there a safeguard for that too because the interlock device may require the driver to blow into it at random intervals.

“So, if someone does try to start the vehicle and does it for you and you’re going for a distance, it may pop up again if they’re not with you,” says Scutari. “To me that makes no sense because it there’s someone sober enough to blow in the vehicle interlock, why don’t they just drive?”

The bill has been approved by the Senate Budget Committee, but Sen. Jeff Van Drew voted against it because he’s concerned the interlock won’t keep drunk drivers off the road.

“The vehicle that the drunk driver may own may have it,” says Van Drew. “Another vehicle, a wife, a sister, a father, a brother, that vehicle will not have it and they can still drive that one.”

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