It’s been a long journey to this day. Back in 2010 California, concerned about its drunk driving collision rate, began testing out a device called an ignition interlock. The instrument, a breathalyzer-like device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, had seen success in other states. Rather than jump in with its vast population, California started a pilot program in four counties to ask the question: what would happen if a California ignition interlock law made the devices mandatory for all DUI offenses, including first offenses?
Data from the four counties – Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties – indicates that the devices work. In a recent report on interlocks, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimated that the devices prevented some 158,000 incidences of drunk driving in California.
Senate Bill 1046, which has been debated and passed by both houses, would extend the all-offender policy to the entire state. That means that anyone convicted of drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more would be required to have the devices in their vehicle for a defined period.
The bill is now on Governor Brown’s desk. He has until the end of September to sign it. Here’s why he should:
- License suspensions don’t work. The reason ignition interlocks were invented is because the standard measure for preventing repeat DUIs – license suspension – doesn’t do the job. Offenders continue to drive without a license, and that includes drunk drivers.
- Unlicensed drivers are more dangerous. A California study found that unlicensed drivers were nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure. Hit-and-run crashes are more likely as well, since a suspended driver involved in a crash is going to be tempted to flee.
- Ignition interlocks do save lives. The rate of alcohol-related road fatalities drops when all-offender interlock policies are adopted.
SB 1046 is widely supported by those who have made a career out of road safety: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, NTSB, the Safety Council, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, and a host of Police organizations and public health agencies. The facts are clear, and California, the state most identified with the automobile, should be the next one to protect its drivers from this preventable and lethal crime.
So, Governor Brown, we invite you to sign SB 1046.
It’s right there on your desk.