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KY lawmaker pushes for interlock devices again

kentucky state capitol building
Peter Fitzgerald


A Northern Kentucky lawmaker plans to re-introduce a bill requiring people with first time impaired driving convictions to install interlock systems in their vehicles.  Representative Dennis Keene of Wilder says the devices test a driver's breath and won't start the engine if they've been drinking.

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, at least 15 people have died in alcohol or drug related crashes so far this year. Keene has introduced similar measures before, only to have them wither in the State Senate.  He says he's more confident this year because there's a sister bill in the other chamber.

Keene says the devices may not stop every drunk driving crash but they have reduced the number of fatalities by 30 percent in other states.  “The average first time offender drives drunk about a hundred times before he is caught and that’s what really shocks them.  They really realize three drinks is too much to be driving a car.  The first time offenders have really backed off a lot from being second and third time offenders,” Keene says.

Under the measure, convicted drivers must pay for the devices as part of their probation.  Keene says the price tag comes to about the cost of one drink a day.

Keene has introduced a similar measure five times before, but it hasn't gone anywhere.  “I haven’t had anybody vote against it.  It goes over to the Senate, but it fails to get a hearing in the Senate.”  Keene says he thinks it’s a lack of understanding of the bill that stops it, rather than politics. 

He’s more optimistic this time around.

“I’m encouraged this particular session because we have a senator from Jefferson County, Senator (Morgan) McGarvey, that is doing a sister bill to it,” Keene says.

Keene is expected to introduce the bill Tuesday afternoon.  He has a press conference with the national president of Mothers against Drunk Driving, parents of drunk driving victims, and other lawmakers.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.