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California offers blow-to-drive devices for first-time DUI offenders

A new California law will take effect next year starting on Jan. 1 that will affect first time and multiple DUI offenders.

First-time offenders of a DUI involving no injuries will have the option of having an ignition interlock device — also known as an IID — installed in their vehicle or they can opt for a one-year restricted license that only allows the driver to drive to and from work or school and to and from a treatment program.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, joined law enforcement officials last Friday in San Francisco to announce the statewide changes for DUI offenders.

Hill authored Senate Bill 1046, which expands a pilot program statewide, requiring repeat DUI offenders to have the devices  installed in their vehicles and giving first-time offenders an option to install them.

The amount of time drivers have to keep the device in their vehicle depends on the number of previous DUI offenses.

Hill said:

“This is about saving lives. It’s about trying to prevent those from getting behind the wheel.”

Hill added that pilot program that began 2010 in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties, prevented people from drinking and driving over one million times:

“We want to prevent more attempts to drink and drive from those convicted of DUIs.”

A driver with an IID installed in their vehicle will have to blow into the device and have be below the state Alcohol Level Concentrate level before the vehicle can start.

Amie Peterson, Sacramento area manager for IID company LifeSafer, said the device will also randomly ask for tests while on the road, said Amie Peterson, who works for an IID company called LifeSafer.

Peterson said while the car will not just shut off if a driver fails a test while driving, the device will log each pass and fail on the device and will require subsequent tests after a fail. The law requires drivers to bring the device in for service for the IDD company to download the data every 60 days.

Data is sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles or to the court if required.

The cost per month for monitoring and calibration of the device ranges from $60 to $80 a month. The installation can range from $70 to $150. The new allows for low-income offenders to either pay 10, 25 or 50 percent of the cost depending on income.

Natasha Thomas, the Northern California regional director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said the organization supports IIDs because they believe suspension of person’s license is no longer effective:

“License suspension without the use of an interlock is a hope for the best approach to stop drunk driving. Hope is not data driven and not a sound strategy.”

Thomas said 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will still continue to drive even with a suspended license:

“We know drunk drivers continue to drive, ignition interlock devices ensure that they are driving sober and that the public is protected.

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