SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a different approach in the fight against drunk driving in New Mexico.
Instead of just increasing punishments, a bill introduced at the Roundhouse would make it harder for convicted drunk drivers with an ignition interlock license to drink in the first place.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation says about 13,000 drivers throughout the state are supposed to be using ignition interlock devices that won’t let their cars start unless they’re sober.
But lawmakers proposing the new bill don’t think that’s enough.
Every driver convicted of DWI has to use an ignition interlock device for one year after the first offense, two after the second and so on, up to life after the fourth conviction.
Yet officers are still stopping repeat drunk drivers on the road.
“It’s one of our biggest problems in New Mexico, and it’s costing a lot of money. It’s costing lives,” said Rep. Harry Garcia (D-Grants).
Rep. Garcia joined three other lawmakers in sponsoring a bill that won’t allow drivers to buy alcohol with an ignition interlock driver’s license or ID.
“If we can save one life when it’s all said and done, that’s what my goal is,” Rep. Garcia said.
However, Rep. Antonio Maestas (D-Albuquerque) has voted down legislation like this in the past.
He said it is a creative idea that comes with some concerns and contradictions.
“What’s a contradiction is, just because you have the interlock license, doesn’t mean you’re on probation,” said Rep. Maestas.
He also asked, what’s to stop someone from using a passport to buy a drink?
Instead, Rep. Maestas said bolstering the existing ignition interlock program is the best way to curb the crime.
“It’s not against the law to drink. It’s against the law to drink and drive,” Rep. Maestas said.
About two years ago, Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) proposed a similar bill.
That was after he said he saw a man at a gas station get into his car, blow into his ignition interlock and then drive off as he sipped a Jack and Coke.