Capitol Alert

California lawmaker wants to expand use of ignition interlocks for drunk drivers

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wants to require ignition interlocks in the cars of all Californians convicted of drunk driving.
Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wants to require ignition interlocks in the cars of all Californians convicted of drunk driving. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Californians convicted of drunk driving would have to install a device on their cars that blocks the ignition from starting if the driver’s breath indicates a problematic blood-alcohol level, under a bill Sen. Jerry Hill plans to announce Monday.

Such “ignition interlock devices” are now used on drunk drivers as part of a pilot program in four California counties – Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. Hill’s bill would expand the program statewide.

“California needs to do a better job of reducing deaths and injuries from drunk drivers,” said a statement from Hill, D-San Mateo. “Ignition interlocks save lives and can be an effective countermeasure to reduce DUI recidivism.”

Two dozen states now have laws requiring interlock ignition devices on the cars of convicted drunk drivers, according to Hill. Supporters of the technology argue that it reduces drunk driving and saves lives, while opponents say it creates a costly burden on offenders.

Hill carried a similar bill in 2013, SB 55, which stalled in the Assembly appropriations committee. A bill analysis pegged the one-time cost of the program expansion at $570,000 and its ongoing costs at $200,000 a year, likely to be covered by fees on offenders. Legislators held that bill while they awaited the results of a study of the pilot program, said Hill’s spokesman Aurelio Rojas. The results of the study are due to the Legislature by Jan. 1.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

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