Many states are moving ahead with regulations that would have ignition interlock devices installed in vehicles of people cited with DUIs. Lawmakers and law enforcement hope these devices will decrease the number of drunk drivers on the roads and save lives.
Wisconsin is just now proposing a law that would require anyone with an OWI to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car. The state has been known for its relaxed laws on drunk driving, but is working on getting tougher with its intoxicated drivers. The law would require interlocks, which prevent a car from starting if they detect alcohol on the driver’s breath, for even first time offenders.
Installing Interlock Devices
New York’s law went into effect in 2010, and it requires monitoring and supervision of offenders with the device in their car. To date, 14 states have laws that mandate ignition interlocks for first time offenders. Nebraska is one of those states. “I think the message is that no drinking and driving will be tolerated by the law. The legislature’s enacted stiff penalties to punish those people,” said Sarpy County, Nebraska Judge Jeffrey Funke. (1)
While these laws are making a difference because they put strict penalties on first time offenders, there are some concerns. The cost of carrying through with installing the interlocks and monitoring them can be a huge burden on states. Some states require the offender to cover the costs, which can be $75 to $100 per installation. In just one year, New York installed 5,775 devices, the cost of which adds up quickly.
Beating the System
The interlock devices are not fool proof. People find ways around them, get bystanders to blow into them, or they take a friend’s car. While there are stiff penalties for doing this, someone unwilling to change their ways will try them to see if they can get away with it. “What we want people to understand,” Omaha Police Sergeant Tony Gutierrez said, “is if you say, drive a friend’s car and you’re required to have an interlock device, and you drive a car without one, you could be charged with a Class IV felony.” (1)
Preventing Drunk Driving Deaths
Imposing stricter penalties on people the first time they get caught drinking and driving will hopefully get the message out that this is a serious offense. Unfortunately, many of the drunk drivers on the roads have multiple offenses. It is frustrating anytime a drunk driver kills someone in an accident, but even more so when it is their 5th or 6th offense. The laws may not have a huge impact on people who have been drinking and diving for a while, but the hope is that it will deter others from getting to that point. “I think the changes are necessary to address the problems sooner, to make a bigger impact right away,” said Gutierrez. “We’re hoping that we have safer drivers on the road. That’s the long-term goal. Time will tell if that’s what actually takes place.” (1)