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DUI drivers have option of interlock auto ignition

California drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol will now have the option of retaining their full driving privileges if they install an ignition interlock device for six months. 

Championed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a Bay Area State Senator who lost a friend to a drunk driver, the law strengthens California’s existing DUI laws regarding the devices – which force the driver to breathe into a machine that measures their blood alcohol content before starting the vehicle, and can require samples periodically as the person drives – and allows first-time offenders the option of having the device installed rather than facing a restriction of driving only to school or work.

The law also requires those convicted of their second DUI to install the devices on all vehicles for a year, those who are on their third to install them for two years, and those who are convicted of their fourth to install them on all devices for three years.

The devices typically cost between $60 and $80 every month for the monitoring service, and an installation fee that can cost as much as $150 per device. 

According to acting Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biederman, the devices are successful by not allowing those convicted of driving under the influence to operate vehicles if they are under the influence, and work as a deterrent in that regard. But when it comes to repeat offenders, Biederman is a bit more pessimistic about their efficiency. 

“The problem becomes that most repeat DUI offenders drive vehicles not registered to them or are paid for in cash and never registered in their name,” Biederman said. “There’s always a way around a good law and intention. It definitely corrects the legit people that just made a mistake.”

But according to the advocacy group that pushed for the law, the devices have absolutely prevented people from driving drunk, and therefore likely saved lives in the process. 

According to data compiled by MADD, in 2017 alone ignition interlock devices stopped more than 354,000 drunk driving attempts across the country, and according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the devices reduce DUI recidivism by 67 percent. 

A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also found that the devices reduce the number of impaired drivers in fatal accidents by 16 percent, that number has been reduced by as much as 50 percent in some states that have mandated their installation. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.