Newark, NJ- DUI fatalities are a serious problem in New Jersey and lawmakers in the state are taking steps to solve this problem. Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill that will require drivers to install ignition interlock after a conviction for their first offense.

According to statistics from MADD, DUI fatalities in New Jersey are on the rise despite the national downward trend. In 2011, national DUI fatality rates dropped 7 percent but in New Jersey the number of fatalities increased from 160 in 2010 to 193 in 2011.

Lawmakers and MADD believe that the way to reduce these unnecessary deaths is require ignition interlock devices for first offenders since MADD estimates that the recidivism rate for intoxicated driving is 67 percent. Suspension of a person’s driver’s license is not enough MADD said since a majority of DUI offenders continue to drive illegally.

An ignition interlock device is similar to a breathalyzer which is installed into a convicted offender’s vehicle. Before a person can even start their vehicle, they have to blow in the device. If alcohol is detected on a person’s breath the vehicle won’t even start. Drivers also have to randomly blow into the devices as they drive.

If an offender is required to have these devices they must pay for the installation and a monthly fee for recalibration.

Under the legislation, first offenders with a BAC of.10 and below would have to use ignition interlocks for a period of 3 to 6 months. First offenders with a BAC above .10 would have the devices for 7 to 12 months. People who receive second DUI convictions would be required to have the devices for two to four years and third-time offenders could be required to have the devices for 10 to 20 years.

Currently only 18 states require first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices, but that may change if the Assembly passes S-2427; the bill has already been approved by the Senate with a 34 to 2 vote, Town Topics reported.

MADD believes ignition interlocks can save lives. Steven Bevenisti, a spokesman for New Jersey’s chapter of the organization said, “S-2427 is the solution to the problems caused by repeat drunk drivers. States that have required ignition interlock devices for all offenders have seen as much as 46 percent reduction in fatalities.”

The bill strengthens a Ricci’s Law which limited the requirement of ignition interlock devices to repeat drunken driving offenders and first offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 and above.

New Jersey is among the many states that followed the recommendations by the National Traffic Safety Board, who has encouraged all states require these devices for first offenders.

States that have all-offender ignition interlock devices such as Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana have seen their DUI fatality rates drop by 30 percent.

If the Assembly passes the new bill, individuals with a DUI charge will face stiffer penalties making it even more critical for them to hire a New Jersey DUI attorney.