Government Technology

California to Test Drive DUI Ignition Locks in Pilot Program



June 15, 2010 By

California may become the latest state to mandate that driving under the influence (DUI) offenders have ignition locks in their cars that require alcohol-free blood alcohol levels before the engine starts.

Set to take effect July 1 and run through 2015, Sacramento, Alameda, Los Angeles and Tulare counties will require all first-time DUI offenders to have "ignition interlock devices" installed in their vehicles for at least five months. A second-time offender would be required to use the device for a year, a third-time offender for two years, and anything beyond that would require a three-year compliance period. If the first-time conviction involved injury, the device must remain in the offender's vehicle for a year, according to the law.

"Impaired driving continues to be the biggest cause of fatalities on our roadways," California Office of Traffic Safety Spokesman Chris Cochran said. "More so than other causes, alcohol is still the No. 1 cause."

It's a move that's been hailed by anti-drinking-and-driving advocates and the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which will evaluate the pilot program's effectiveness through a $345,000 grant from the state's Office of Traffic Safety -- which received the money via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"We believe the technology is going to be one of the solutions to eliminate drunken driving," said Mothers Against Drunk Driving California Law Enforcement Program Specialist Silas Miers. "They can lead normal lives, pick kids up from school, go to work, but this stops them from getting on the road and endangering others while under the influence."

Seven states -- Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico and Washington -- have similar programs, run through their state DMVs that require offenders to use an ignition interlock device for a period of time prior to their license being fully reinstated, according to the California DMV. Nine other states -- Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Utah -- have strong incentive programs, but don't go as far as the aforementioned seven states.

Private-Sector Blues?

Though the federal government is pitching in for the pilot's development, those convicted of a DUI must pay to comply. Offenders in the four pilot counties will have to cover the installation and maintenance costs -- about $100 for installation and a monthly lease rate between $50 and $80 -- which breaks down to about $2.50 a day, said Ignition Interlock Service Centers of California Vice President Taylor Reed.

But one key component that's been lost in the news, Reed said, is the potential loss to businesses like his, which gets roughly 95 percent of its customer base from convicted DUI offenders. Due to the program's language -- which says that fees can be reduced up to 90 percent depending on one's income level -- Reed foresees a huge blow to the ignition interlock industry.

"If you have someone able to afford to get intoxicated ... they should be able to afford the cost of the interlock, which is an average of $2.50 a day," he said. "It's kind of like, 'How the heck can we meet that requirement and stay in business?' and the answer is looking more and more like we can't."

But Reed supports the pilot program in theory, although he also thinks the time period for first-time offenders should be longer than five months. "Ultimately it's affordable technology to prevent drinking and driving and save lives," he said. "It is behavior modification, if there is enough time to do that."

For repeat offenders, this approach may be more effective than probation and temporary or lifetime license revocation, Miers said, as offenders can easily get around those requirements. "The reality is that people still drive their vehicles, whether there's a license or not and that's where we get into the realm of very risky behavior for repeat offenders," he said. "


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Comments

Joy A    |    Commented June 16, 2010

So 3rd-time offender has to use it 2 years, and greater than 3rd time has to use it for 3 years. Anybody with repeat offenses has demonstrated that they are a menace to society, they don't care about laws and safety. They will keep doing it and eventually maim or kill somebody. More than 3 offenses should mean mandatory jail for a very long time. That will get them off the streets, and also stop them from drinking.

Joy A    |    Commented June 16, 2010

So 3rd-time offender has to use it 2 years, and greater than 3rd time has to use it for 3 years. Anybody with repeat offenses has demonstrated that they are a menace to society, they don't care about laws and safety. They will keep doing it and eventually maim or kill somebody. More than 3 offenses should mean mandatory jail for a very long time. That will get them off the streets, and also stop them from drinking.

Joy A    |    Commented June 16, 2010

So 3rd-time offender has to use it 2 years, and greater than 3rd time has to use it for 3 years. Anybody with repeat offenses has demonstrated that they are a menace to society, they don't care about laws and safety. They will keep doing it and eventually maim or kill somebody. More than 3 offenses should mean mandatory jail for a very long time. That will get them off the streets, and also stop them from drinking.

Bob    |    Commented June 17, 2010

When will drunk driving be taken seriously in this country? I had 2 family members killed by a drunk driver who had 19 drinks and he was sentenced to 4 years, served 2. So looks like California may cut back on his 2nd offense DUI for a 5 month period. Why even make a law? What a "blown" opportunity California to actually reduce the 11,778 DUI related deaths (in 2008).

Bob    |    Commented June 17, 2010

When will drunk driving be taken seriously in this country? I had 2 family members killed by a drunk driver who had 19 drinks and he was sentenced to 4 years, served 2. So looks like California may cut back on his 2nd offense DUI for a 5 month period. Why even make a law? What a "blown" opportunity California to actually reduce the 11,778 DUI related deaths (in 2008).

Bob    |    Commented June 17, 2010

When will drunk driving be taken seriously in this country? I had 2 family members killed by a drunk driver who had 19 drinks and he was sentenced to 4 years, served 2. So looks like California may cut back on his 2nd offense DUI for a 5 month period. Why even make a law? What a "blown" opportunity California to actually reduce the 11,778 DUI related deaths (in 2008).


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