Georgia legislators proposed two bills to modify the terms requiring installation and use of an ignition interlock device in the cars of first-time DUI offenders.
Since Jan. 1, a judge can decide what consequence a second-time offender must face. Second-time offenders may be eligible for a 120-day license suspension, followed by eight months use of an IID if they complete a treatment program and have a certificate of eligibility for a limited driving permit.
House Bill 407 was passed Tuesday, calling for the eight-month IID requirement to 12 months. Senate Bill 15 was also proposed to mandate the installation of interlock devices after a driver’s first DUI.
“I think [this] could have the impact of encouraging people to go through meaningful addiction treatment to address the underlying issue that’s causing the repeat offenders to repeat DUI’s, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said C.R. Chisholm, Jr., the solicitor-general of Athens-Clarke County.
An IID connects to the front panel of the car and acts like an in-car Breathalyzer. It connects to the ignition and detects the percent alcohol on the driver’s breath before allowing the car to be cranked. In Georgia, the driver must blow less than a 0.08 if over 21 years old and less than 0.02 if 18 or older.
If the percent alcohol is over the allotted limit, the IID triggers the car’s lights and horn until the driver turns off the car or gives a clean sample. Drivers are also subject to random re-tests while on the road in order to prevent drinking after the ignition is cranked.
The device reduces recidivism, or repeat offenses, by 50 to 90 percent, according to ignitioninterlock.com.
But Chisholm said the device is not necessarily on its way to making the roads safer.
“There are a few problems with ignition interlock devices. One is, when you start talking about repeat DUI offenders, people that get ignition interlock devices, a number of them, if not most, have serious substance abuse issues,” he said. “And, if the ignition interlock device is good at preventing them from driving, it’s not a tool that they use to help them abstain from alcohol, because they can still blow positive.”
Chisholm stressed the importance of coupling the device with “meaningful treatment for alcohol or substance abuse issues” in order to maximize effectiveness.
The only way to avoid a court-mandated ignition interlock device is to prove the installation would be a financial burden.
LifeSafer in Athens, the primary interlock device installation center located on East Broad Street, charges $75 for installation of an IID and another $75 to have it removed. The driver is charged $2.50 a day to use the device if it has a camera, so during a six-month period, the driver could pay $600 – including installation and removal charges.
Interlock devices do not have an increased presence in Athens, despite a growing number of bars, said Rachard Nash, a LifeSafer employee.
Students said they believed that loopholes in the use of an IID would not increase safety on the road.
“I don’t think so because someone else could just breathe into it,” said David Williams, a finance major from Lawrenceville.
But Nash said this is not a large problem because it would not make sense to have a sober passenger blow into the device rather than having them drive.
“And some people try to get sober to start their car, then they just get on the road, but the machine can take a random test while you’re driving,” Nash said.
The ultimate goal of tightening the legislation on IIDs is to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads, Chisholm said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to stop them from continuing happening,” he said.