Car Safety

Major Changes to N.J. Drunk Driving Law

A proposed law to drastically change the way New Jersey punishes drunken drivers has hit Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

The bill, which passed the state Senate 29-4 on February 5 after passing the Assembly in June, would allow most drivers convicted of drunken driving for the first time to reduce their license suspensions from the current three to seven months to just 10 days.

However, the drivers would need to install ignition interlock devices that would not let them drive if drunk, something currently only required of first-time offenders with especially high blood alcohol levels.

The legislation has been promoted extensively by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which said that Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico saw drunk driving-related fatalities fall by 30 percent after putting similar laws in place. Twenty-four states require the devices for all offenders, according to MADD.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the bill “will receive careful review in the 45 days prior to the deadline for action.”

Offenders would have to pay for their own interlock devices, which cost about $100 per month. Those found indigent by the courts could get them paid for by a fund paid for by other users.

The bill also increases penalties for second-time offenders. Instead of the current two-year suspension, judges could order licenses suspended for two to four years.

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