Archive for Monday, December 4, 2006

With new laws, DUI device will be harder to blow off

State tightens requirements for ignition interlock equipment

December 4, 2006


It's about the size of a cell phone. It makes beeping sounds, has buttons on the front and plugs into a vehicle's dashboard.

But instead of an antenna on top, this device has a tube that a driver must blow into before turning the ignition key. If the driver's blood-alcohol level is above a certain limit, the car won't start.

These so-called "ignition interlock" devices have been around since the 1980s, but changes to Kansas law mean that in coming years more offenders convicted of driving under the influence will be required to have them.

"It's going to be, I would say, five to 10 times more people at the end of next year than at the end of this year," said Lawrence resident Matt Strausz, who owns a Smart Start franchise that provides ignition-interlock equipment in 13 locations across Kansas.

Under Kansas law, anyone with a second, third or fourth DUI has a suspended driver's license for one year. After that, there's a one-year period in which the person can drive only with an ignition-interlock device, which costs roughly $2 per day to rent and around $75 to install.

It's a requirement many convicted drunken drivers have ignored in the past.

Few obey restriction

A survey in 2005 found that only 18 percent of Kansas drivers required to get an ignition-interlock device did so. The rest were driving without one, hoping they didn't get pulled over and then applying to have their licenses reinstated at the end of the one-year period.

Since July 1, drivers who are ordered to get ignition interlocks must send documentation to the state that they've had a system installed. Their privileges won't be reinstated until the system has been on for one year, said Marcy Ralston, chief of the state's driver control bureau.

Another change to state law could have an even greater effect on the number of drivers blowing into a tube: In the past, the state counted only the number of DUIs a person had in a five-year period. But as of July 2005, all prior DUIs in the person's lifetime count against them on their driving record, so even someone with a DUI decades ago would be considered a second-time offender if caught again.

"I think the changes are good for public safety," Ralston said.

MADD issues call

Recent events have put ignition-interlock devices in the spotlight in Kansas and elsewhere. On Nov. 20, Mothers Against Drunk Driving issued a call for all states to begin requiring first-time DUI offenders, not just repeat offenders, to have one placed in their automobiles.

The same week, it was revealed that the driver of a Kansas State University fan bus involved in a deadly accident in Lawrence was required to use ignition interlock because of past DUIs.

John Frydman, a Lawrence criminal defense attorney, said he supports the idea of making first-time drunken drivers get an interlock device.

"Instead of increasing jail times and fines and confiscation of vehicles and permanent revocation of licenses, they should make these mandatory on a first" DUI, Frydman said. "People are going to drive even if they lose their license, so then it just perpetuates the criminality, and then they get into more trouble."

Between January and October 2006, 1,143 of the state's roughly 2 million drivers were restricted by the state's Division of Motor Vehicles to drive only with an ignition-interlock device. In that same time, however, only 254 people had them installed.

The actual effectiveness of the devices remains a subject of debate. In an article published this week in BusinessWeek, Lawrence Taylor, a prominent California DUI attorney, called them inaccurate, easily circumvented and, because they require the person to give breath samples while driving, dangerous.

He cited a 2004 study from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that found, among other things, there was "no evidence" that interlocks were an effective traffic safety measure for first-time DUI offenders.


ohjayhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

So, now, instead of DD's there are going to be DB's (designated blowers)?

ohjayhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

r_t - either that or "aiding and a-blowing"? Maybe it would depend on the severity of it.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 9 months ago

Well you know if they want to keep their jobs perhaps selling the home and relocating within biking or walking distance. OR close to a public transit situation.

It seems to me a person would be better off not owning a vehicle after multiple times. Relatives would have to take a hard line and not lend a car if they do not want someone to get killed or become disabled for life. If heavy drinking is that important to someone I guess they should live within walking distance of the bar.

compmd 10 years, 9 months ago

Right on, Reality_Check, except for the plates part; that opens up a whole different can of worms. But back on topic, Kansas has some of the weakest DUI laws around. Perhaps instead of coming up with more accomodating measures, the state should be coming up with more preventative measures, like enormous fines, prison time, and generally making people afraid of a felony conviction. That's the problem: nobody is afraid of consequences.

And going with the trend of the comments today, somewhere there should have been an "accomodater" joke in mine.

feeble 10 years, 9 months ago

Newsflash, recidivism rates for released prisoners in the United States of America are about 60%. You aren't curing any social ills by locking up a drunk driver, you are just warehousing an accident on the taxpayer's dime. Gonna have to find a method that has better than 40% success rate.

Not that it matters, since states already follow the previsouly suggested line of thought:

"The various versions of "driving under the influence" generally constitute a misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail) . However, the offense may be elevated to a felony (punishable by a longer term in state prison) if the incident caused serious injury (felony DUI) or death (vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide), or if the defendant has a designated number of prior DUI convictions within a given time period (commonly, 3 prior convictions within 7 years). California, which is being followed by a growing number of states, now charges second-degree murder where the legal state of mind of malice exists -- that is, where the defendant exhibited a grossly reckless indifference to the lives of others"

SoundMind 10 years, 9 months ago

This article addresses only the administrative license suspension aspects of a DUI stop. It does not address the criminal charges that arise, too.

When a person is stopped because a law enforcement officer believes they've been driving under the influence, two legal actions arise - one is the criminal action for the illegal activity of driving under the influence. The other action is civil/administrative in nature and is called an "implied consent" proceeding because, under Kansas law, for the privilege of having a driver's license, the law implies that you have given your consent to a blood or breath test if a police officer believes you've been DUI.

Failure or refusal of the breath or blood test triggers license restriction, suspension, or revocation, depending upon the circumstances.

not_dolph 10 years, 9 months ago

Interesting timing in the publishing of this article...

thubbard76 10 years, 9 months ago

The attorney cited in the article, Lawrence Taylor, says that these are dangerous because people have to use them while driving. I thought you had to use them before you could start the car?!! Blowing while driving, however, could be dangerous indeed.

Bud Stagg 10 years, 9 months ago

"3 times and you're in" is what it should be. These idiots who have more than 3 DUI's should locked up for a minimum of a year.

They should also make the drinking age 18 again.

We keep moving the age of responsibility back instead of teaching our citizens to be more responsible at an earlier age.

Harry_Manback 10 years, 9 months ago

"I have a fareind who was required to use one of what are termed "The Device".

The newer units take a picture at the same time of the test so one cannot use a surrogate blowee."

I had a knew a girl back in high school who was on house arrest that had to use one of these things. Lucky for her, she had a twin!

I agree with the lawyer who said first time DUI offenders should have to use one. I also agree with Joe above me. They should make the drinking age lower and the penalties higher for DUIs.

partdim 10 years, 9 months ago

Do you realize that in Kansas, you can have 100 DUI's and the worst jail time you get is 1 year?!? That's just wrong!

not_dolph 10 years, 9 months ago

Apparently you are allowed to drive a party bus too.

Bruce Liddel 10 years, 9 months ago

Call me skeptical, but I think the governmental interest in DUI is the exactly same as for speeding tickets: Maximize revenue while simultaneously appearing to be doing something for safety.

And, I believe MADD is driven by lust for power, not by actual safety concerns.

In case anyone cares about safety, try reading the position paper on DUI at the National Motorists Association website,

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