California bill would mandate ignition interlocks for drunken drivers

| 5/13/2008

A bill in the California Assembly would require first-time offenders of the state’s drunken driving law to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles if they want to continue to drive.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, the legislation would mandate that people found guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for five months.

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 convicted of driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.

There are 46 states that require the devices in some cases. In California, judges have authority to require use of the devices to allow offenders to drive to and from work or alcohol treatment.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 6-1 to advance the bill – AB2784 – to the Appropriations Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor