NASHVILLE — State Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) has been named “Legislator of the Year” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The group praised Stevens and eight other Tennessee lawmakers who shared the honors for their leadership during the 2016 legislative session.
The organization particularly thanked Stevens for his efforts in passing Senate Bill 2065 requiring ignition interlocks for convicted DUI offenders. The new law took effect on July 1.
“Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to public safety and we must remain vigilant to continue the progress we have made in our fight to prevent it,” said Sen. Stevens. “Too many Tennesseans have been touched by the tragedy of this senseless crime. I am honored to receive this award from this outstanding organization and am committed to continuing to make our drunk driving laws stronger and more effective.”
Although Tennessee has mandated the use of ignition interlock devices, there has only been a 15 to 20 percent compliance rate with the law because judges were required to provide a reason why the device should be placed on a DUI offender’s vehicle. The bill sponsored by Stevens flips that requirement by providing that a judge must state findings of fact on why an interlock device should not be installed on the offender’s vehicle.
Under the new statute, offenders must have the ignition interlock devices in their car and operating for 365 consecutive days or for the entire time their license is revoked, whichever is longer. To ensure compliance, the legislation establishes penalties for the unauthorized tampering or removal of the interlock device. If the device is removed during the 365-day period, the offender must start over until it is served consecutively.
Similarly, if there has been any tampering with the device in the last 120 days of the sentence, the legislation provides that the period for which the interlock system is required will be extended by another 120 days.
“It has been a privilege to work with these dedicated legislators who have shown their commitment to preventing the completely preventable crime of drunk driving,” said Kate Ritchie, state program director of MADD Tennessee. “We count on our legislative champions to help us achieve our ultimate goal — No More Victims.”
Other Tennessee legislators honored by MADD include Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Representative G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), Representative William Lamberth (R-Portland), Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) and Representative Mark White (R-Memphis).