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Ignition interlocks may be required for all California DUI offenders

Under a new federal law that is currently gaining momentum in the U.S. House of Representatives, all people who are convicted of drunk driving, whether it is their first or their 10th offense, will be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. This would significantly increase the severity of DUI laws in California, where currently only a handful of counties require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving convictions.

Under the law, which is part of a new federal transportation bill, the federal government would offer additional highway funds to states that create laws requiring ignition interlocks to be installed in the vehicles of all DUI offenders. Currently, 15 states require even first-time offenders to install the devices.

Ignition interlocks require a driver to test his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) by blowing into the device before attempting to start the vehicle. If the device senses alcohol in the driver's blood, the engine will not start. The offender usually must pay to install and maintain the device, which can be a significant financial burden.

Of course, there are several groups who have come out in opposition of this measure. One is the American Beverage Institute, a trade association representing restaurants. In a statement, the group said that making all DUI offenders use the devices would "deny judges the ability to distinguish between a driver one sip over the limit and high-BAC, repeat offenders."

Starting in 2010, four California counties began a pilot program in which all DUI offenders were required to install the ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. That pilot will end in 2016, unless a law such as this one is passed.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Drunk drivers: Congress gets behind breath-test ignition devices," Jan. 31, 2012

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