Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has introduced a bill that would require people convicted of a second DUI to install and use an ignition interlock device for one year. Sen. Hill, along with several California law enforcement agencies, held a press conference on December 28, 2012 and announced that the bill, if passed, would require third time offenders to install and use the device for two years. Under the bill fourth or more offenses would require installation and use of the device for three years.
An ignition interlock device requires users to blow into a device which is attached to the ignition of the vehicle. The device collects a sample of the driver’s breath and records blood alcohol content level. If the BAC level exceeds a preset limit, the device prevents the ignition from starting.
The bill would also require multiple DUI offenders to complete a special ignition interlock device program and comply with bi-monthly calibrations of the device.
The legislation is less strict that what the National Transportation Safety Board recommends for DUI offenders. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in early December that ignition interlock devices should be mandatory for even first time offenders. “The first step to address the number one kill on our roadways is to do what is proven to be effective – use interlocks for all DWI offenders,” Hersman said.
Requiring DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices has created several issues that have yet to be addressed.
I know several families who share the use of vehicles. Must a wife, or even the son or daughter, of a man be subjected to the device if man is the DUI offender and the family shares only one vehicle?
Another issue involves what is called a “running retest.” As a way to avoid offenders from circumventing the device by having a sober person start the vehicle for them, some devices require the driver to provide breath samples at random times after the vehicle has been started. Some versions of the device would stop the car if alcohol was detected or the sample was not submitted. Some newer versions of the device cause the horn to honk and lights to flash, without stopping the car, if alcohol is detected or the sample is not submitted. In a state that does not allow drivers to have a handheld phone, it would be just as distracting, if not more distracting, to have to concentrate on providing a breath sample in the midst of driving on the freeway. Furthermore, if we’re trying to prevent accidents, do we really want stalled cars in the middle of our roads? Do we really want the distraction of car lights flashing and horns blaring on our roads? Do we really want drivers concentrating on providing a sample in the middle of the road instead of concentrating on driving?
This comes at a time when the NTSB has, itself, announced that deaths involving DUI crashes dropped 2.5% from 2010 to 2011 and has been steadily decreasing over the last decade.