S.C. Measure Would Require Locks on Cars of Drunk Drivers

March 20, 2007

All convicted drunken drivers in South Carolina would have to have a special device installed in their vehicles that would prevent them from driving if they have had too much to drink.

Under a law passed in 2000, judges can order the “ignition interlock” devices, though they are not required. State officials have said the devices were never ordered because regulations for their use were never developed.

The device measures blood alcohol level from a breath sample and prevents the car from starting if it detects a level above the legal limit.

A bill by state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, would require the devices for all drunken driving offenders after their license suspensions end. After a first offense drivers would have to use the machine for a year. The term would increase by one year for each subsequent offense to lifetime use for four-time or more offenders.

Lourie hopes to get a hearing for his bill this week. A similar measure has stalled in the House.

According to federal statistics, a third of the more than 1,093 people killed in wrecks in South Carolina in 2005 died in drunken driving crashes.

During the 2005-2006 fiscal year, nearly 11,000 driver’s licenses were suspended in South Carolina for drunken-driving offenses. About 2,300 were repeat offenders, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Some worry the devices might not work properly.

“I have never seen any electronic device that has worked right 100 percent of the time,” said defense attorney Reese Joye of North Charleston. “It’s just like the breath-test machine. There’s no such thing as an accurate breath-test machine.”

Offenders would have to pay to have the devices installed in all vehicles they and family members own. There also would likely be a monthly monitoring fee. Devices for indigent offenders would be paid for with fines paid by drunken drivers.


Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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