New Maine law gets tough with repeat drunken drivers

| 5/9/2008

In hopes of keeping repeat drunken drivers off Maine roads, a new law requires ignition interlock devices to be installed on offenders’ vehicles.

Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill into law this spring that targets people who are found guilty more than once of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. The new law that takes effect this July makes Maine one of 46 states to require the devices in certain cases.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them, or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

Advocates for stricter drunken driving rules cite statistics that show drivers who are convicted of driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.

The new law, previously LD856, requires installation of the devices for an amount of time that would depend on the length and severity of individuals’ driving records.

The cost of installing the devices will be the driver’s responsibility. They typically run about $125 to install and $65 per month to maintain and recalibrate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor