Repeat offenders of driving under the influence are required to have them – but should first time offenders be as well? Kansas is the latest of several states to propose a law that require any person convicted of DUI to have an ignition interlock system be installed in their vehicle. Those in favor of the idea believe it will make roads safer. Those opposed to the idea say it will not solve anything.
The Smart Start device is like a “black box” for your vehicle. A driver blows into the unit for several seconds and their blood-alcohol level is measured. If the person’s blood-alcohol content is higher than the legal limit, the vehicle will not start. It will also record any attempts made to disconnect or tamper with the device.
The device may also have an effect on the person’s bank account. The device is leased at a cost of around $1,000 per year and the driver is required to pick up the tab. That cost can add up, depending on how long the court deems it to be necessary.
Precision Audio of Wichita, Kansas will install seven devices this month. If House Bill 2315 is passed in Topeka, that number will increase. The bill would require that all first time DUI offenders have the device installed. It would also increase the penalties and punishment for DUI-related offenses.
The American Beverage Institute is in opposition to the bill, arguing that first-time DUI offenders, even those that are just one sip over the legal limit, would be required to install breathalyzers in their vehicles.
ABI spokeswoman Sarah Longwell said that requiring first time offenders, regardless of their blood-alcohol content, to install the device “ignores the root cause of today’s drunken driving problem: hard core alcohol abusers.”
The bill does raise the question: should first time offenders be punished as severely as habitual alcoholics with considerably higher blood-alcohol contents?
The bill is expected to be passed out of committee and worked by the Kansas House.
During this session, lawmakers have a number of DUI-related bills under consideration.A similar law was passed in Nebraska last year. The law is also in place in New Mexico, where supporters claim that it has reduced DUI deaths nearly 40 percent.