Hingham police show how interlock safety devices installed in vehicles prevent drunken drivers from starting their cars.
In 2005, Jill O’Bryan of Rockland and a friend were seriously injured when a repeat drunken driver slammed head-on into their car on Route 18 in Weymouth.
A Weymouth man was later sentenced to two years in jail for causing the crash.
O’Bryan is among those supporting legislation state Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, has filed that would require interlock safety devices installed in vehicles to prevent anyone convicted of drunken driving from getting back on the road if they’ve been drinking.
O’Bryan, 25, who has undergone 26 surgeries and racked up a half-million dollars in medical bills, was at the Hingham police station Monday to see how the device can be a lifesaving tool.
“This would be beneficial and save lives,” O’Bryan said. “Drunk drivers have no concern for anyone on the road. There will always be those who don’t care, but we have do something.”
Interlock devices work like in-car Breathalyzers. They are wired into a car’s ignition system. To start a car, the driver must blow through a tube into the device, which then analyzes the motorist’s blood alcohol content. If the reading is .02 percent or higher, the vehicle will not start.
Hedlund, the main sponsor of the state’s anti-drunken driving legislation known as Melanie’s Law, said the devices have been successful in other states. Under Melanie’s Law, interlock devices are mandatory for repeat drunken drivers.
Representatives from Smart Start Inc., one of four companies authorized to install the telephone-looking devices in Massachusetts, showed how it works.
“It’s almost like a black box in an airplane,” said Anthony St. James, field operations manager for Smart Start, an Irving, Texas, company with an office in Rockland.
Smart Start charges convicted drunken drivers $91 a month to lease the device.
Hingham police Sgt. Steven Dearth, coordinator of the town’s Buckle Up Program, said the demonstration was a way of getting the public’s attention about Hedlund’s legislation.
Dearth said drunken driving isn’t going away and pointed to a 47 percent increase in arrests in Hingham from last year.
Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz, who attended the demonstration, said the device is “a great step in the right direction.”
State Rep. Garrett Bradley, D-Hingham, and state Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, who support the bill, were also on hand.
Another supporter at the demonstration was Courtney Palek of Hingham.
Palek and her three young children survived an alleged drunken driver crashing into their minivan on Summer Street in Hingham earlier this year. The case is pending.
“This is a benefit for parents who try to keep their kids safe but can’t do everything,” Palek said.
For more information about the device, go to smartstartinc.com.
Dennis Tatz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.