Interlock devices sought for drunken driving offenders in Alaska

| 12/14/2007

An effort in Alaska that is expected to draw consideration in the statehouse next year would get tough with drivers who repeatedly get behind the wheel after drinking too much.

Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, is expected to renew his push for legislation that would require people with previous drunken driving convictions to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such devices are installed, drivers 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 on driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.

Alaska law now only allows judges to order people found guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher to have the interlock devices installed. Drivers charged with DUI lose their licenses. After 30 days, drivers may become eligible for limited use licenses that can be used solely to drive back and forth to work.

The bill would allow DUI offenders who have received misdemeanors to continue holding a driver’s license if they install the device. They also could drive freely.

The bill – HB19 – is slated to begin the 2008 regular session in the Senate Finance Committee. The House approved it earlier this year during year one of the two-year session.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor