In the last days of 2019, a new drunk driving law went into effect in New Jersey. The good news is that the law eliminates driver’s license suspensions for most first-time DWI offenders. But the measure that took effect on Dec. 1 also requires all those convicted of drunk driving to install ignition interlock devices.

The new law does away with license suspensions for first DWI offenders with a BAC (blood alcohol content) below .15 percent. In New Jersey, the legal threshold for a DWI is a BAC of .08 percent.

First-time DWI offenders with a BAC below .15 percent will be required to have an ignition interlock in their vehicle for from three months to a full year. They will only be able to start and drive their vehicles by first blowing into the Breathalyzer-like device. If the ignition interlock detects an unallowable level of alcohol (.05 percent or above), the vehicle will not start.

Those first offenders with a BAC of .15 percent and above will be subject to a driver’s license suspension ranging from four to six months. They must also have an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for an additional nine to 15 months.

Punishments for a second DWI are even harsher. Those drivers can have their licenses suspended for up to two years and they’ll be required to install and keep an ignition interlock in their vehicle for between two and four years.

Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari was the primary sponsor of the new law. He said the measure is intended to change behaviors “while safeguarding our roads at the same time.”

But a recent New York Times article states that ignition interlocks can be dangerous distractions for drivers. The devices not only require a breath test before a vehicle can be started and driven, but so-called “rolling retests” once the vehicle is moving.

Those retests require drivers to blow into the device to have their breath tested – even as the vehicle is being driven. Far too often, the result of a rolling retest is that the driver is distracted by the process and can cause a motor vehicle crash that can result in injuries to themselves and others.

Clearly, the new law can have unintended consequences that make our roads less safe rather than safer.

Contact an attorney in Totowa and Newark experienced in DWI/DUI defense in order to protect your rights, driving privileges and freedom.