Many Californians convicted of driving under the influence will have to temporarily install breathalyzers in their vehicles to get their driver’s licenses back after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday expanding a pilot program.
Senate Bill 1046 is the result of a four-year effort by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to get a statewide policy on “ignition interlock devices,” which prevent a car from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit.
“SB 1046 will lead to safer roadways for all Californians,” Hill said in a statement. “We’ve already seen this to be true in the four counties conducting the pilot program: Ignition interlock devices have saved lives by preventing more than 1 million attempts to drink and drive since 2010.”
A June report on the pilot program by the California Department of Motor Vehicles found that the devices lowered recidivism rates for participants compared to other DUI offenders, but also resulted in an increase of crashes.
Under current law, those convicted of a DUI receive a mandatory suspension before they can apply again for a restricted license that allows for driving only to and from work and alcohol treatment programs.
But starting in 2019, SB 1046 will require most drunk drivers to install the ignition interlock device to reinstate their full driving privileges. The penalty starts at six months for a first DUI conviction and increases to one year for the second, two years for the third and three years for the fourth or subsequent offense.
The measure includes an exception for first-time offenders who do not injure anyone. They will be given the choice between driving with the ignition interlock device for six months or a restricted license for one year.
Brown signed SB 1046 without comment. It sunsets in 2026.