April 02, 2007
Currently, a person convicted of driving under the influence has been able to get a limited driver's license from the Division of Motor Vehicles so that they can continue to drive and to earn a living. The limitation currently placed on a license focuses primarily on where a person can drive. House Bill 19 shifts the emphasis from where a person can drive to how a person can drive by changing the type of limited license available to an offender from the traditional limited license to an ignition interlock limited license.
The bill, HB 19, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), requires the offender to install and maintain an ignition interlock device on the vehicle they intend to drive. The device analyzes the person's blood alcohol content (BAC) and prevents the car from being started if the person's BAC is above a set level.
"HB 19 changes the focus from where an offender can drive, to how an offender can drive," Meyer said. "By placing an ignition interlock device in an offender's car, we are keeping them from not only driving drunk, but driving any other car while drunk, since if they drive in another car under the terms of this bill, it is the same as driving with a revoked license, since they wouldn't be subject to the in-car breathalyzer.
"The bill is about making our roads safer for our children and other drivers. With the ignition interlock, if the offender can't blow, they can't go."
Additionally, HB 19 raises the penalty for tampering or trying to circumvent the device while on probation or in possession of the limited license to a Class "A" misdemeanor, and makes renting or loaning a vehicle to an offender a Class "B" misdemeanor.
"The Department of Public Safety supports the bill, and sees the value in adding ignition interlocks to the repertoire of monitoring alcohol offenders," Meyer said. "Studies have shown that implementing the devices in one Canadian province have cut repeat DWI rates 80 percent in the last twelve months for first time offenders and by 74 percent during the first 24 months for repeat offenders. Repeat offenders are the ones we are really hoping to tamp down with this bill, since the instance of becoming involved in a fatal crash is far greater for repeat offenders than first time offenders."
HB 19 also provides DUI offenders with the ability to drive more than just from home to work and back, as current state law allows, since as long as the device is installed and maintained, they can drive anywhere. The bill further stipulates that unlike current state law, an offender with an ignition interlock does not have to be employed at the time of application.
HB 19 has been referred to the Senate for its consideration.
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