A test program involving driving under the influence cases has been underway in four California counties since mid-2010. The pilot project is intended to determine whether requiring ignition interlock devices on automobiles after a person is convicted of DUI charges will reduce recidivism in the state. Los Angeles County is one of the four counties participating in the pilot project.

Officials from the State Department of Motor Vehicles say that the participation rate in the pilot project has been rather low. State officials say that only about 30 percent of the people who have been ordered to install the breathalyzer-like devices in their automobiles have provided proof that they have installed the devices. The pilot project seeks to force many DUI offenders to install the devices, and even affects some first-time DUI offenders.

State officials recently released data on the participation rate of the project. They claim that some people who have been required to install the devices have not done so, choosing instead to avoid driving altogether or simply driving with a suspended license. State officials say that part of the problem

The Los Angeles Assemblyman who originally introduced the bill says the state is committed to increasing compliance with the ignition interlock pilot program.

People convicted of drunk driving in the four participating counties are reportedly required to install the devices at the conclusion of their initial license suspension. Those convicted of a first-time DUI are required to have the device in place for a period of five-months. For second-time offenders, the devices are required for a year. The device must be installed for a two-year period after a third DUI conviction.

The devices act essentially as a personal breathalyzer. The driver must blow into the device before attempting to start the car. If the device detects a specified level of alcohol in the breath test, the car will not start. Use of the device across the country has increased dramatically in the past few years.

Ignition interlock devices can add significantly to the overall costs of a DUI conviction. Most Californians know that a DUI on a person’s driving record can lead to skyrocketing insurance premiums and other costs. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that having an interlock ignition device on a vehicle costs between $800 and $1000 each year, including initial installation and monthly fees, all of which the driver is required to pay. Some experts say the costs can actually be much higher.

Source: Sacramento Bee, “Sacramento’s convicted drunk drivers ignore law to install alcohol detectors in their cars,” Tony Bizjak, Nov. 6, 2011