Georgia will require some first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock systems on their vehicles starting July 1.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is pleased to welcome the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Colleen Sheehey-Church to Georgia to mark the implementation of a new law that will help reduce the number of drunk driving crashes and deaths in the state.

She will join Georgia Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Mark McDonough and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood on a statewide tour this week to discuss House Bill 205 that goes into law on Saturday, July 1.

House Bill 205, passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2016, makes it possible for drivers who refuse blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing as required by implied consent laws or offenders who are convicted of a DUI where their BAC is .15 or higher to have to install and maintain an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

Ignition interlocks prevent drivers from starting their vehicle if the device sensors detect the alcohol level on the driver’s breath is above the legal limit for them to operate a motor vehicle.

“States that have passed ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders have seen the number of drunk driving deaths drop by as much as 50 percent,” Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said. “Requiring DUI offenders whose BAC level is almost double the legal limit in Georgia to have these devices will keep impaired drivers off of our roads, which will reduce the number of crashes and save lives.”

Georgia joins 48 other states and the District of Columbia that now have laws requiring ignition interlocks for certain first-time DUI offenders.

MADD is one of the major supporters of the ignition interlock law in Georgia as the organization continues its effort reduce the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes to zero.

According to MADD, ignition interlock devices have prevented 2.3 million impaired drivers from getting on the road and they have reduced the number of repeat DUI offenders by as much as 67 percent.

“MADD has made drunk driving an unacceptable behavior in our society and their work is one of the reasons the number of drunk driving deaths in the United States has dropped by more than 50 percent over the last four decades,” Director Blackwood said. “While the hard work of MADD, law enforcement agencies and other highway safety advocates has saved thousands of lives over the years, our goal is still zero, and we will continue to work night and day to make it where no one will have to suffer the agony of losing a family member or friend to someone who makes the selfish decision to drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.”

House Bill 205 becomes law during the 102-hour Independence Day holiday travel period in Georgia which this year begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 30th and will run all the way up to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4th.

State and local law enforcement agencies will increase their patrol of Georgia roads and highways during the holiday weekend when AAA is predicting 1.1 million Georgians will be on the road. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, 12 people were killed in traffic crashes during the 78-hour July 4th holiday travel period in 2016, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that one person dies in an alcohol-related traffic crash every 53 minutes in the United States.

“Troopers and Motor Carrier Officers will be concentrating their efforts to locate impaired drivers on our roads as well as speeders and motorists who fail to buckle up,” Colonel Mark McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety said. “Our Troopers and MCCD Officers will be concentrating on the most common violations identified as contributing factors in fatal traffic crashes,” he added.

The message to those who can legally consume alcoholic beverages is plan ahead for a sober ride home or any destination by designating a driver, calling a ride service or cab or calling AAA/Tow to Go to get a free ride/tow up to ten miles from Friday, June 30 until 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, July 5.

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