Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has signed into law a bill that is intended to get tough with drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking too much.
The new law, previously HB19, requires first- and second-time DUI offenders, and some third-time offenders, to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. The rule affecting misdemeanor offenders takes effect Jan. 1, 2009.
Interlocks are hooked up to the ignitions 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 on driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.
Alaska law now allows judges to order only 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 new rule mandates that first-time DUI offenders who have received misdemeanors keep the device installed for a minimum of 12 months. Repeat offenders must keep them hooked up for 24 months while third offenses would mandate the device be installed for 36 months. They also could drive freely.
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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor