California All-Offender Ignition Interlock Pilot Program to Continue Saving Lives – For Now

california Ignition Interlock Pilot ProgramBack in 2010 California decided to test a public safety idea that was gaining favor across the country: ordering ignition interlocks to be installed in the vehicles of all DUI offenders, including first offenders.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Not willing to enact sweeping legislation too quickly, California decided to try out an all-offender interlock policy in four counties: Tulare, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Alameda. If the policy suceeded there, it would be extended statewide.

Has it succeeded? Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says yes. The group cites statistics showing that the devices have prevented 158,000 incidences of drunk driving. Every failed test and subsequent failure to start the vehicle is logged, so it’s easy to determine how many impaired drivers were not able to take to the road during that time.

dont-drink-and-drive-californiaThe ignition interlock pilot program was set to expire this December, but it has been renewed for another 18 months. Not the ideal choice – that would be a statewide expansion – but at least legislators will get more time to see the device working. It is to be hoped that they will recognize the benefits of the only solution to drunk driving, apart from imprisonment, which actually prevents a drunk driver from reoffending. And unlike imprisonment, which is costly to society, the interlock is paid for by the one convicted.

At the time the program began, California was ahead of the curve. Now 25 states have adopted all-offender ignition interlock laws, and the state is a bit behind the curve. We hope legislators and public safety officials observe the results, do the math, and conclude, as half the country has, that ignition interlocks prevent drunk driving and save lives.