The Garden City Telegram
9/12/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Lock law

Legislators should preserve current drunken-driving law.

It's always disappointing when legislators resist attempts to enact laws intended to keep people safe.

Often, such dissenters argue government shouldn't overstep its bounds in requiring certain safety-minded acts, when the opposite is true. Governments do indeed have an obligation to pursue policies that discourage dangerous behavior.

With that in mind, it was encouraging to see a law enacted in 2011 in Kansas contribute to a decline in alcohol-related fatalities.

Statistics from the Kansas Department of Transportation show alcohol-related traffic deaths dropping sharply after Kansas joined other states with all-offender ignition interlock legislation.

The law requires all Kansans convicted of drunken driving to install ignition interlock systems. Vehicles won't start if the interlock machines detect alcohol on the breath of the driver.

Since passage of the new law, the number of drunken-driving deaths in Kansas dropped by more than 30 percent, from 138 in 2010 to 94 in 2012.

Before 2011, the Sunflower State reportedly had an average of 116 alcohol-related traffic fatalities between 2000 and 2010. The nation saw alcohol-related fatalities drop during that time, but not Kansas.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving helped push for the first-time offender ignition interlock law in Kansas. They pointed to other states that saw fewer alcohol-related crashes, injuries and fatalities after enacting mandatory interlocks for all offenders.

While pursuing a proven way to reduce the number of repeat offenders who endanger themselves and others made sense, there's still work to do.

One misstep moving forward would be in a failure of the Kansas Legislature to maintain the interlock requirement.

A 2015 sunset clause was built into the law. If the clause isn't removed by state lawmakers, ignition interlocks would no longer be required for all offenders who choose to drive drunk.

Statistics that show a downward trend in alcohol-related accidents and deaths should lead the Legislature in the next session to eliminate the sunset clause of a law that works and helps save lives.

That's not overreach. It's the responsible thing to do.