An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath-test device connected to a vehicle's ignition. Photo courtesy of CDC.

An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath-test device connected to a vehicle's ignition. Photo courtesy of CDC.

California legislators have passed a bill requiring DUI offenders to equip their vehicles with an alcohol ignition interlock device if they want their license reinstated, reissued, or if they want to qualify for a restricted license.

If Governor Jerry Brown signs the legislation, the new law will take effect in January 2019.

Four counties in California — Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Tulare — already require DUI offenders to install such devices as part of a pilot program. First-time offenders in those counties are ordered to use an ignition interlock device for five months. That period can be extended if there are subsequent violations.

The legislation, which passed the state Senate on a 39-0 vote on Aug. 25, would expand the pilot program with these modifications:

  • For a first DUI offense that also involves an injury, an ignition interlock device would be required for six months.
  • For a first DUI offense that involves no injuries, an offender may choose a six-month ignition interlock device requirement with full driving privileges, or a one-year restricted license that would allow only driving to and from work if the offender also participates in a treatment program.
  • A second DUI offense would result in an ignition interlock device requirement for one year
  • A third DUI offense would require an ignition interlock device for two years
  • A fourth or subsequent DUI offense would require an ignition interlock device for three years.

The legislation, originally introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), offers an incentive to DUI offenders who choose to install an ignition interlock device soon after their arrest. They would be allowed full driving privileges with installation and use of an ignition interlock device, and their ultimate time requirement would be reduced based on their early installation of the device.

An ignition interlock device costs less than $3 a day — approximately $60 to $80 per month — for monitoring and calibration. It costs $70 to $150 for installation. A sliding scale would enable low-income offenders to pay 10%, 25%, or 50% of the ignition interlock device costs, depending on income. The device provider would pay the rest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignition interlocks reduce repeat drunk-driving offenses by about 70% while they’re installed. But nationwide, only about one-fifth of those arrested for drunk driving have interlocks installed as a result.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have ignition interlock laws on the books, but only 23 require the devices for all offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many states impose the devices on repeat offenders or on offenders with exceptionally high levels of alcohol in their blood.

A 2014 study conducted by the CDC, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and produced by the Preusser Research Group helped identify eight actions needed for a successful alcohol ignition interlock program. They are:

  • Require or incentivize use
  • Levy strong penalties
  • Monitor interlocks to ensure proper use
  • Implement uniformly across the state
  • Coordinate across agencies
  • Educate stakeholders about the program
  • Provide adequate resources (including staff and funding)
  • Use data for action (including data records such as level of offense, BAC level at time of arrest, number of prior arrests, installation/removal dates, and violations).

To download a CDC report on increasing ignition interlock use, click here.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet