Suzanne Potter / California News Service
LOS ANGELES – States that require ignition-interlock devices for all drunk-driving offenders have seen a 15 percent drop in deaths from alcohol-related crashes, according to a new report. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found Driving Under the Influence (DUI) crashes take 11,000 American lives each year. Their report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, recommends more states require the devices for all DUI offenders.
California only has a pilot program requiring ignition-interlock devices for five months for first-time offenders in Tulare, Alameda, Los Angeles and Sacramento counties.Frank Harris, director of state government affairs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calls the pilot program wildly successful.
“They have stopped over 124,000 drunk-driving attempts since July 2010 in California,” says Harris. “And these devices separate drinking from driving as long as they are installed on an offender’s vehicle. So, we know these devices are effective.”
But the pilot program expires next year. The State Senate Public Safety Committee is considering a bill on March 29 that would make California the 26th state to require ignition-interlock devices for all offenders.
Senate Bill 1046 also allows convicted drunk drivers to get an ignition interlock in order to avoid a license suspension that could cost them their job.Currently, these drivers have to wait at least 30 days before getting an ignition interlock. Harris says some in the California Department of Motor Vehicles oppose the bill, believing the current system of suspensions to be effective.
“By taking away someone’s license, it’s a hope for the best approach,” Harris says. “The DMV and the state government, using hope as a strategy to fight drunk driving, is not going to stop drunk driving.”