DUI ‘lock’ down extended

By Reggie Ellis


tulare county – A pilot project requiring repeat DUI offenders in Tulare County to take a breathalyzer test before starting their vehicle has been extended through 2018.

On Sept. 28, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an 18-month extension of AB 91 requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices (IID) to the steering column of vehicles owned by people who have been convicted of drinking and driving.

California began the pilot program on July 1, 2010 in Tulare, Alameda, Los Angeles, and Sacramento Counties. Under the program, any one DUI offender being issued a restricted driver’s license, being reissued a driver’s license, or having the privilege to operate a motor vehicle reinstated must install an IID on all vehicles he or she owns or operates for a specified period of time. The law also states that anyone who attempts to remove, bypass or tamper with the IID will immediately have their license suspended.

Originally set to expire at the end of 2015, SB 61, authored by State Sen. Jerry Hill, extended the pilot through July 2017 before it was extended again last month. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) advocated for the extension of the program based on its success rate. From 2010-2015, IID have blocked drunk drivers from starting their vehicles 126,436 times — an average of 1,945 per month, according to a report sponsored by MADD. It’s important to note that these were convicted drunk driving offenders who would have driven impaired again if they had not been stopped by an ignition interlock. IIDs also prevented vehicles from starting another 898,231 times because alcohol was detected on the driver’s breath. In all, interlocks prevented 1,024,667 drinking and driving incidents since July 2010.

“Short of incarceration, which costs taxpayers more than $100 per day, the only physical barrier to prevent an offender from driving drunk again is an ignition interlock,” the report stated. “Any other program aimed at treating, monitoring and rehabilitating drunk driving offenders should include an ignition interlock component to ensure public safety while offenders address changing their drunk driving behavior.”

MADD went so far as to recommend that California require all offenders to install an ignition interlock for at least six months immediately after the offense or for the remainder of current license suspension periods, and without a lengthy license suspension.

-Ignition interlocks protect the public and allow the offender to carry out daily responsibilities and, if needed, attend rehabilitation programs.

-Studies show ignition interlocks are 67 percent more effective than license suspension in preventing recidivism.

-States with similar laws have reduced drunk driving fatalities by up to 50 percent. If California were to achieve the same results, 400 lives could be saved every year.

-No other program puts technology between a would-be drunk driver and his or her ability to drive.

-50 to 75 percent of drunk driving offenders continue to drive on a suspended license.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, alcohol involved collisions where someone was killed or injured dropped from 417 when the pilot program began to just 114 through 2013, the latest numbers available. The drop improved Tulare County’s ranking from fifth among 58 counties for alcohol related traffic deaths and injuries to the middle of the pack at No. 21. In 2010, Tulare County had the highest number of underage drivers caught for drinking at driving at 71. That number was cut in half by 2013. Similarly, drivers over the age of 21 caught drinking and driving fell from being No. 2 of 58 counties to No. 30.

A report released by the California DMV in June said DUI offenders forced to use the IID were less likely to be arrested for a subsequent DUI. The report was consistent with other studies that found first and repeat DUI offenders with IIDs installed in their vehicles have substantially lower DUI recidivism rates than those whose driver licenses were simply suspended or revoked.

But while the likelihood of a DUI arrest went down, the likelihood they would be involved in a crash went up. For first and second DUI offenders were more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash than DUI offenders with a suspended or revoked license. Of the overall crash involvement measured in the study, the proportion of fatal/injury crashes ranged from mid-30% to low-40% for different DUI offender groups—which is consistent with what prior California evaluations have reported for these offender groups.

“The IID requirement should continue to be evaluated as a potential DUI countermeasure in California,” the report concluded, but that “driver license suspension or revocation actions could be combined with IID requirements, as these two countermeasures may help reduce alcohol-related incidents in different ways.”

Based on the findings of this study, the DMV recommended the following actions:

– Convene a task force including representatives from the Legislature, judiciary, law

enforcement, and other public agencies to strengthen DUI countermeasures.

components of California’s comprehensive DUI countermeasure system.

– Evaluate the traffic safety benefits of the IID program including shortening a hard license suspension or revocation period for offenders who choose to obtain an IID-restricted license.

– Collaborate with representatives from the courts, law enforcement, and other entities to

explore options such as using IIDs as an “alcohol-abstinence-compliance” monitoring tool.

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