Thursday, June 17, 2010

California Passes Law for DUI Ignition Locks for First Offenders

Recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger officially signed a bill into a new law which now requires first time DUI offenders to install dashboard Breathalyzer devices into their vehicles.

This pilot program, which will take effect in four California counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare is set to take effect on July, 1, 2010. If the evaluation of the program yields a successful result in 2015, the Congress will expand the requirement statewide.

The law will require first time offenders who have been convicted of driving under the influence to have to test their breath for alcohol with the dashboard Breathalyzer devices before they can start their vehicles.

If alcohol is detected by the device, the car engine cannot be started. Although this law was vehemently opposed by criminal defense lawyers and restaurant lobbyists as they felt this should be reserved for repeat DUI offenders, the bill was signed into law last fall and is set to begin next month.

DUI-related accidents is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle fatalities. In fact, 1 person is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. Statistics further show that in 2008, 11,773 people died in alcohol related crashes.

Some drunk drivers however, manage to get arrested before they cause bodily injury or death to others. Often, they get fined, jailed, or have their licenses suspended or get put under probation, depending on the circumstances of the arrest or even if they plead guilty to a lesser offense.

This however, fails to adequately deter drunk drivers, most of whom are repeat offenders. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 50-75 percent of DUI offenders whose licenses are suspended continue to drive thus increasing the risk of alcohol-related crashes that could serious injure or kill other people on the road.

To avoid or prevent repeat DUI offenders who still continue to drive even without a license from circumventing the law, it was proposed that an ignition interlock device be installed in vehicles to test drivers for alcohol before they can operate the vehicle. This would make it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel and cause a crash.

Almost all US states have passed laws that allow the imposition of ignition-interlock devices as sentencing alternatives, while 14 states, including California, have similar laws for first-time offenders.

Majority of Americans favor installment of devices like IIDs to curb drunk driving accidents but a lot are also cautious that this still could get circumvented by the driver. If people still continue to drive drunk and cause accidents because they’re impaired drivers, they would have to face criminal and civil liability.