New TN law requires ignition interlock device for DUI offenders - WSMV Channel 4

New TN law requires ignition interlock device for all DUI offenders

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A new Tennessee law aimed at cracking down on drunk driving is allowing offenders the chance to drive, if they are sober.

State troopers expect the so-called "first offender law" to help stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel impaired a second time.

The law made ignition interlock devices, once only an option for extreme offenders, mandatory for anyone convicted of driving under the influence.

"The ignition interlock is the only way we have to actually monitor DUI offenders and their driving activities," said Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Ehrin Ehlert.

THP expects the new law to help law enforcement crack down on drunk driving like similar laws have in other states.

"Many states have seen as much as a 30 percent decrease in DUI-related fatalities," Ehlert said.

Last year, nearly 27,000 were convicted of DUI offenses in Tennessee. Of those convicted, nearly 5,000 of them were driving on a suspended license from previous DUI cases.

"Many drivers are going to drive anyway on a revoked license," Ehlert said.

To operate the ignition interlock device, an offender blows into a sensor, and the car only starts if they're sober. If not, the engine won't start, and the device records it.

The law also changed the requirements for the device itself. Now, the device must have a camera attached, so officials can tell who's blowing into it.

Ignition interlock service providers install and service the devices for a monthly fee, which comes out of the offender's pocket.

"We've got a big group of individuals who weren't required to have interlocks before, so hopefully it will help us tremendously," said Brandon Ross, owner of Interlock Xpress.

Ross said he expects his client total to double because of the new law.

The new law impacts drivers who were arrested, and convicted of drunk driving on or after July 1.

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