Senate to consider measure to reduce use of ignition interlock for first-time DUI offenders

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PHOENIX – The Arizona Senate is set to consider a bill that would reduce the amount of time a first-time DUI offender would be required to have an ignition interlock device.

Since September 2007, a person convicted of DUI would have to have an interlock device in his or her vehicle for a minimum of one year. Under SB 1200, sponsored by Sen. Linda Gray (District 10), that would be dropped to six months for first-time offenders. To have that interlock removed at six months, the offender would have to complete an alcohol or drug education or treatment program

An ignition interlock device is a breath analyzer that is wired to a car’s ignition. Before the car can be started, the driver has to blow into the device. If the analyzer determines the driver’s blood-alcohol content to be above the legal limit of .08, it keeps the car from starting.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes SB 1200, saying six months is not enough time offenders to change their behaviors.

“Since the inception of the interlock law, we have gone down in fatalities by 42 percent,” said Kelly Larkin of MADD. “The interlock law works at 12 months. Studies show that drivers need at least five to six months to even make the interlock work. Ten percent of those offenders who on the interlock don’t have a bad blow, which means they’ve blown into the interlock at .08 or higher, until the seventh or eighth month. We really need to keep this law intact because it’s about saving lives here in Arizona.”

According to Don Isaacson, a lobbyist for the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, studies show that 80 percent of first-time DUI offenders don’t repeat the offense. In addition, most of them have no prior records at all.

While members of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee have recommended the approval of SB 1200, previous attempts to amend the ignition interlock law in a similar manner to have failed.