Sen. Jerry Hill Introduces Bill Requiring DUI Offenders to Use 'Ignition Interlocks'

December 29, 2014

Palo Alto Online
By Sue Dremann

Sen. Jerry Hill Introduces Bill Requiring DUI Offenders to Use 'Ignition Interlocks' Device Blocks Ignition from Starting If Driver's Breath Indicates Blood-Alcohol Level is Higher Than Pre-Set Limit

First-time DUI offenders would be required to install "ignition interlock devices" in their cars that will test their breath for alcohol before starting the car, if a new bill introduced by state Sen. Jerry Hill passes in Sacramento.

Hill, flanked by representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and nearly a dozen law enforcement officials from cities in San Mateo County and the San Mateo and Santa Clara county sheriffs, introduced the bill (Senate Bill 61) on Monday morning during a press conference at Redwood City's Courthouse Square.

The bill would mandate a five-year pilot program that requires installation of the ignition interlock on DUI offenders' vehicles for six months for the first offense, with an escalating period for each subsequent conviction. Drivers would not lose their licenses while using the device, which Hill said has been a major stumbling block to the state's current voluntary program. Under current California law, only about 20 percent of persons who have a choice of installing the device or driving on a restricted license opt for the device, he said.

Reducing recidivism is key to reducing DUI-related fatalities and injury, he said. Legally impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes were eight times more likely to have a prior driving-while-impaired conviction than drivers involved in fatalities who had not been drinking, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And the casualties are daunting: In the past 30 years, more than 50,000 Californians have been killed by drunk drivers and more than 1 million have been injured, Hill said. Repeat DUI offenders account for about a third of annual DUI convictions.

Hill said it pains him that a preventable cause of injury and death is not being fully addressed. Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested, he said.

"California needs to do a better job of reducing deaths and injuries from drunk drivers," Hill said. " We must take action to prevent more drunk drivers." The bill is a bipartisan effort, he added.