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New bill may help prevent DUI convicts from repeating mistakes

This week, the San Francisco Police Department announced its support behind SB1046, a bill that would expand the use of a device that blocks DUI offenders from driving while intoxicated.

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If passed, SB1046 would replicate a pilot program that involves the installation of an ignition interlock device, which prevents an engine from turning on when the driver's Breathalyzer detects alcohol. The bill would require future DUI offenders to buy the device and keep it installed on their vehicle for a minimum of six months.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, with support from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, introduced the bill. If passed, it could go into effect as early as January 1.

Under SB1046, those with a single DUI offense would need to install and use the device for six months. Second offenders would use the device for one year; three-time offenders for two years; four-time offenders for three years.

Although DUI offenders have to pay for installation and use of the device (about $100 and $50 per month respectively, according to SFGate) device manufacturers may offer a sliding scale fee based on the individual's income level.

DMV officials reportedly favor driver's license suspension over the ignition interlock device. Driving on a suspended license is much easier to get away with than driving with a Breathalyzer installed on your car.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving published a report on the pilot program's results. The report found that DUI offenders made 717,000 attempts to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .025 or greater over a five-year period. About 12 percent of those drivers had a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater-which is above the legal limit.

If those numbers aren't staggering enough, consider the total number of DUI offenders:

• In 2014, more than 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

• The National Department of Transportation reported that about a third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.

• Adults drink and drive about 300,000 times a day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If a device can help reduce these numbers, let's implement it. I'd actually like to see SB1046 require that DUI offenders use the device for longer periods of time. For example, one year for the first offender, increasing in two-year increments for each repeat offense.

The ignition interlock device has the potential to keep more impaired drivers off the road, which keeps those roads safer for everyone. Let's lower the statistics around DUI repeat offenders and deadly accidents.

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David G. Smith
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