Pennsylvania bill would get tougher with first-time DUI offenders

| 8/24/2007

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

State law already requires the devices for repeat drunken drivers who obtain restricted licenses.

The interlock is hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once the device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece so the machine can measure 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.

Supporters say the bill is common sense for dealing with first-time offenders of the legal definition of drunken driving in the state. There were more than 34,000 of those drivers in the state a year ago who were found to have a reading of 0.08 percent or higher, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

About 4,000 repeat drunken drivers in the state use ignition interlocks.

Opponents say the cost of the devices might be an unfair financial penalty for some first-time offenders. The expense for installation and upkeep on the devices for one year is about $1,000, The Inquirer reported.

The bill – SB679 – would require first-time offenders to have the interlocks installed for six months. It is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor