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Senator proposes new law for DUI offenders
December 29, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Drivers convicted of multiple DUIs could be forced to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles under a new bill introduced by state Sen. Jerry Hill Friday.

Under current state law, installation of ignition interlock devices is optional for repeat offenders. Only about 20 percent of those given the option install the device, said Hill, D-San Mateo, during a press conference in Redwood City Friday. Hill’s bill would require a person convicted of a second DUI to install and use the ignition interlock device for a year.

Hill said enforcement efforts about drunk driving have made an impact but there is still more that needs to be done.

An ignition interlock device is connected to a vehicle’s ignition and requires a breath sample before the engine starts. The device prevents the car’s engine from starting if the device detects a blood alcohol level that exceeds a pre-set limit. The device needs to be recalibrated every other month. Cost of installation, maintenance and the paperwork needed to run the program will be paid for by the person who is convicted for the DUI, said Hill.

A person convicted of a second DUI would need to use such a device for a year, a third conviction would require a driver to use the device for two years and a fourth conviction would come with a three-year requirement, said Hill. If someone is below the federal poverty level and cannot afford the cost of installation, a sliding scale will go into effect. The remainder of the cost will be picked up by the manufacturer, said Hill who added the state isn’t in a position to cover the cost.

As of this year, about 279,000 ignition interlock devices are installed and operating in the nation, 24,000 of which are in California.

In the last four years, Redwood City has had 17 repeat offenders, said police Capt. Gary Kirby. Friday marked the 15th day of the city’s increased enforcement efforts against driving under the influence. During that time, 18 people have been arrested, said Kirby. Requiring ignition interlock devices is needed in the arsenal of tools for law enforcement to combat this problem, Kirby added.

To date, the local California Highway Patrol office has arrested 1,216 people for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said CHP Capt. Mike Maskarich.

The ignition interlock device, however, can only be used to detect alcohol impairment, not when a person has been using drugs, said Hill.

New Mexico, which has a similar law, saw a 75 percent reduction in repeat offenders between 2002 and 2007. During that same period, alcohol-related accidents declined by 31 percent, Hill said.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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