New Iowa law requires ignition interlock devices for all OWI offenders

A new law will require any OWI offenders, including first timers, to have an ignition interlock device in their car if they have a temporary restricted license.

New changes to a drinking and driving law will give offenders convicted of OWI more freedom while keeping other drivers on the road safe, officials say.

Under a new law that took effect July 1, anyone convicted of OWI--including first-time offenders--must have an ignition interlock device, similar to a breathalyzer, in their car if they have a temporary restricted license.

The old law exempted first-time offenders who has a blood alcohol content of .08-.10. Now the law requires the device to be installed for all drivers convicted of drunk driving.

Before July 1, drivers with temporary restricted licenses were limited in terms of travel---they could only travel to and from work, which critics argued was impractical.

The new law wipes some of those restrictions, which supporters say is a win-win for the convicted drivers and others on the road.

“It keeps Iowans safer and at the same time it does allow them to maintain probably more of a lifestyle because some of the changes to the temporary restricted license," said Patrick Hoye, bureau chief for the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau at the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Hoye says the changes to the interlock law, which got bipartisan support in the legislature this year, is proactive step to reducing traffic fatalities in the state. There were 330 traffic fatalities last year, Hoye said. Over 20% of those fatalities involved alcohol.

“If you have relapsed and you’ve gone out and had a night of drinking, the interlock is going to keep you from driving that vehicle and obviously that’s going to make it safer my family and any family, because that drunk driver is not out on the road," Hoye said.

A nonpartisan agency found that the new law is estimated to save the state $900,000 for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1.

The legislature also passed a ban on texting and driving last year and expanded Iowa’s “Move Over” law this past session.

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