CONCORD — The New Hampshire Senate today will consider allowing first-time DWI offenders to apply for so-called “Cinderella” licenses, allowing them to drive to and from work, medical appointments, and drug or alcohol treatment.
It would require the installation of an ignition interlock device, which prevents anyone who has been drinking from starting or driving a vehicle.
House Bill 496 has been in the works a long time, sponsored in its current form by Rep. Stephen Sturtleff, D-Penacook.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, held a hearing on the bill last month.
After losing driving privileges, a first-time DWI offender could petition the court for the restoration of limited driving privileges.
The state already requires interlock devices for repeat DWI offenders and for first-time offenders whose blood alcohol content was 0.16 or above. A person is considered legally drunk if their BAC is 0.08 or higher.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is urging passage, saying the use of the devices has been proven to significantly reduce repeat DWI offenses.
At the hearing last month, Frank Harris of MADD told senators the measure would save lives and reduce drunken driving.
“Ignition interlock teaches sober driving behavior,” Harris testified. “We support this legislation because license suspension doesn’t teach sober driving.”
Earl Sweeney, the state’s assistant commissioner of safety, said the state sees between 3,000 and 4,000 first-time DWI offenders in any given year. He said passage of the bill would increase the number of drivers with interlock devices tenfold.
He recommended there be a minimum 60-day license suspension before someone could apply for a limited privilege license.
Senators also heard from N.H. State Police Lt. Matt Shapiro, who said he spent 16 years working the midnight shift and arrested between 500 and 1,000 impaired drivers.
“We agree interlock devices are part of a comprehensive plan, but it’s not a panacea,” Shapiro testified. “It fails to address drugged drivers. In the past decade, we have seen more and more drugged drivers.”