HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is clamping down harder on drunk driving.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a bill into law that requires many first-time offenders convicted of drunk driving to have an ignition interlock on their vehicles for a year. The device prevents the car from starting when the driver has been drinking.

According to Malcolm Friend, a program director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the devices have proved effective for multiple offenders over the past 12 years.

“Devices on their vehicles have stopped more than 78,000 instances of drunken driving, right here in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Under the new law, ignition interlocks will be required for a first offense of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .1 or higher. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, drunk drivers were involved in more than 10,000 collisions in the state last year. Friend said those collisions resulted in 333 deaths and thousands of injuries.

“MADD’s position on this is quite clear,” Friend said. “One death caused by a drunk driver, one injury caused by a drunk driver, is, quite simply, one too many.”

Now only two states, Massachusetts and Idaho, do not require ignition interlocks for at least some first-time offenders.

The new law goes into effect in 15 months. Meanwhile, Friend said, he hopes those heading out to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend will keep their safety and the safety of their families in mind because “176 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over Memorial Day weekend last year. We clearly would like to see the number to be zero this Memorial Day.”

When alcohol is part of the celebration, MADD encourages using a designated driver, a car service or public transportation to return home.

The bill is online at legis.state.pa.us.

Andrea Sears