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Congress Continues Aggressive Efforts to Crack Down on Drunk- Driving Offenders

Every day Congressional legislatives and authorities across the country are finding new ways to crack down on drunk driving. A recent bill would have allocated funds for a government-research project aimed at working with auto manufacturers to install a type of alcohol detection device inside future vehicles was recently on the table. The bill failed to pass the House and Senate, but it’s likely legislators will continue to support and sponsor similar bills.

The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (known as the ROADS SAFE Act) was recently reviewed by both House and Senate. Sponsored by House Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers and Senator Tom Udall, both bills proposed setting aside federal funds to use for researching and developing alcohol detection technology to implement in autos of the future to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.

Specifics of the new technology was still in the works while the bill was pending, but legislators say the mechanism would be different from Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) currently being used. Engineers had plans to build the new mechanism directly into future vehicles using either a touch button within the car’s steering wheel containing sensors to spot alcohol on the driver, or building a detector within the vehicle to test the interior air.

Ignition Interlock Devices in Arizona

In the meantime, however, IIDs remain the mainstream technology often included as one of the penalties for drunk driving in many states including Arizona.

An IID is an apparatus that is installed into a motor vehicle’s dashboard that calculates the breath-test concentration of a driver. If the concentration is greater than the programmed amount, the car won’t start. In some cases, the driver has to repeatedly blow into the mechanism while the vehicle is in operation. Positive Tests will be reported to the MVD and result in extensions of 1 year of IID use per violation.

Citizens in Arizona convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating alcohol or drugs, are required to install and use a certified IID as a condition for restricted driving. The IID is installed after the completion of driving suspensions that result from a DUI arrest.

Indirect Costs of Ignition Interlock Devices

Ignition interlock devices may sound reasonable and straightforward, but the indirect costs associated with the requirement usually go unrecognized until a driver is facing a DUI charge and forced to abide by the device rules set out by law.

Not only must drivers pay court fines associated with the drunk-driving charge, they must also pay the costs that go in tandem with having an IID.

Under Arizona law, a driver is required to pay the costs to install, maintain and inspect the device. Installation can cost a driver over a hundred dollars; the maintenance or rental charge is an additional $50-$100. Since Arizona drivers must have an IID for one year, the costs can quickly add up. Further, if an individual driver has more than one vehicle, he or she must install (and fork over the requisite installation and maintenance fees) the IID on all vehicles being operated.

Good News: Proposed Bill to Reduce IID Timeframe

The bad news is that DUI offenders will most likely be forced to use IIDs for a while. (If passed, technology under the ROADS SAFE Act would not even be on the market for another 10 years.) The good news, particularly for Arizona drivers, is that a bill passed by the state legislature requires a significantly decreased installation time on the ignition interlock.

Currently, Arizona DUI offenders must have the IID for one year On April 2011, however, SB 1200 passed, reducing the time from one year to six months for certain first-time offenders.

Advocates against drunk driving, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), disapprove of the bill due to the number of deaths they say are still caused by drunk drivers today. Others, however, like Republican State Senator Linda Gray, think “six months is long enough to teach someone a lesson.”

Currently, New Mexico and New Jersey are the only other states that require drivers to install an IID for an entire year. If you or a family member is facing charges of driving under the influence, contact an experienced attorney to understand the options available to you.

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