CA considers ignition interlock law to reduce drunk driving accidents

Proposed legislation could expand California’s ignition interlock device pilot program and require all DUI offenders to install the devices.

In California, intoxicated drivers are a frequent cause of needless accidents and loss of life. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that drunk drivers cause 1,000 deaths and more than 20,000 injuries in the state on average per year. Fortunately, lawmakers are now considering a bill that would better protect drivers in San Diego and other parts of the state against drunk drivers involving repeat offenders.

All-offender law proposed

The bill would mandate ignition interlock device installation for all drivers convicted of driving under the influence. An ignition interlock device prevents a driver from operating his or her vehicle unless the driver can provide a breath sample with a blood alcohol concentration that falls below a set threshold. The law would represent an expansion of a pilot program that is currently underway in four California counties.

Under the bill, a six-month period of ignition interlock device use would be mandatory for first-time offenders. Second-time offenders would have to use the devices for one year. If the bill ultimately passes, research suggests that it could help reduce recidivism and serious drunk driving accidents.

Preventing repeat offenses

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that interlock installation can reduce recidivism by 67 percent. This would offer notable benefits in California, where one-third of all DUI offenders are repeat offenders, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Requiring first-time offenders to install the devices may be especially impactful. It's easy to view first-time offenders as people who have made isolated mistakes that may not reflect their usual habits. However, according to MADD, research shows that a first-time offender has typically driven intoxicated about 80 times prior to his or her first arrest. These offenders also have rates of recidivism that are similar to those of repeat offenders.

Interlock device installation can also ensure that convicted offenders don't drive after license suspension. MADD notes that up to 75 percent of convicted offenders drive on suspended licenses. State data reveals that this problem is significant in California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in 2009, 43,000 convicted DUI offenders were arrested for driving despite license suspension. The total number of offenders who ignored the suspension of their licenses may have been even higher.

Addressing deadly accidents

In addition to these gains, the use of interlock devices may lead to a lower rate of fatal accidents involving drunk drivers. According to MADD, some of the states with ignition interlock laws that target every DUI offender have seen fatal accidents involving intoxicated driving fall by more than 30 percent. Given California's high rate of DUI-related deaths, this kind of legislation could save hundreds of lives.

Sadly, until this law or a similar one passes, accidents involving drunk drivers injure many Californians. Anyone who has been injured in one of these accidents should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the situation and the available legal remedies.

Frantz Law Group supports any legislation that will assist in reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road.

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