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New Push For Ignition Interlock Law For First-Time Drunk Drivers

BOSTON (CBS) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants Massachusetts lawmakers to pass a new bill on ignition interlock devices, the breathalyzers that are electronically connected to a car's ignition.

Currently state law only requires the devices for people with two or more OUI convictions. Supporters of the new proposal say it's irresponsible that the current law waits for people to make the same mistake twice.  They feel that more lives could be saved if the devices were used after the first offense.

"It doesn't really make any sense to me that something like this wouldn't be in place to protect people," says Sarah Carmichael, a victim and survivor of a drunk-driving crash.

Almost ten years ago, Carmichael was making a left turn on Route 30 in Framingham when a drunk driver with three times the legal blood alcohol content ran a red light and changed her life forever.

"I couldn't walk, I could barely even talk. All of my ribs had been broken and my lungs had collapsed. So, it was very difficult to actually even speak," she told WBZ-TV.

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The damage to Sarah Carmichael's car after it was struck by a drunk driver. (Photo credit: Sarah Carmichael)

The drunk driver that hit Carmichael was known to local police and had been arrested on suspicion of OUI more than once, but was never convicted. Even more shocking for Carmichael was to learn that Massachusetts is one of only two states in the entire country that does not have an All Offender Ignition Interlock law for first time OUI offenders.

(Image credit: MADD)

"Massachusetts is really supposed to be on top of things and here we are, the one thing we have in common with Idaho is that we're not protecting our community," Carmichael said.

"Pass the bill to save people's lives. It's a public safety issue," says John Kotfila Sr., a Massachusetts State Trooper.

Kotfila has also experienced the devastation drunk driving can have of families. In March 2016, his son John Jr., a deputy sheriff in Hillsborough County Florida, sacrificed his life by intentionally driving his cruiser head first into a wrong way driver on an expressway.

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From left, Massachusetts State Police Sgt. John Kotfila Sr., Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy John Kotfila Jr. and Falmouth Police Officer Michael Kotfila. (Photo credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and is this one of the reasons that he lost his life? I don't know, but it's certainly something we support," says John's wife Theresa Kotfila.

The Kotfilas' and Carmichael have recently testified at the State House, citing powerful proof that ignition interlock devices work. According to MADD, over the last ten years the devices have prevented more than 38,000 attempts to drive drunk in Massachusetts.

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An ignition interlock device. (WBZ-TV)

"Try to figure out how many of those people would have got into an accident, would have maimed somebody, hurt somebody seriously or killed somebody," said John Kotfila.

The ignition interlock device allows OUI offenders to still go to their jobs, school, pick up their kids or complete whatever daily tasks they need to do, versus a license suspension. Supporters like Theresa Kotfila say this bill is not about punishment, but prevention.

"Both their lives were lost that night because of something that is so preventable that could save lives and that's what this is all about, it's about saving lives," she said.

However, one critic of the bill told the Boston Globe earlier this year that it would add an unnecessary level of punishment to first-time drunk driving offenders.

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