Currently, the in-vehicle alcohol breath tests are only required of those who:
- Are repeat offenders
- Refuse to take a blood-alcohol test
- Or blow a 0.015 on a breath test (nearly double the 0.08 threshold for DUI)
Judges do have discretion to choose whether to impose the devices for those convicted just once of the offense of drinking and driving, but it’s not required. These devices require offenders to blow into an alcohol-sensing tube to ensure they haven’t been drinking before the vehicle will even start.
Opponents of SB 619 and HB 877 argue those who are “social drinkers” will unduly suffer if North Carolina enacts these tougher measures. There are also concerns drivers won’t be able to afford the interlock ignition fee, which is expected to increase from $75 monthly to approximately $90 a month.
However, these concerns are easily disputed. Firstly, one does not need to be an alcoholic or even an abuser of alcohol to be involved in a drunk driving accident. All it takes is one time, one error in judgment and innocent people’s lives are lost or forever altered. Further, Mothers Against Drunk Driving notes on average, the first-time DUI offender has driven impaired at least 80 times prior to their first arrest. So even if it’s a first-time arrest, it’s most likely not their first time drunk behind the wheel.
Some lawmakers have likened the device to a “scarlet letter.” But the shame of having to blow into a device to start your car is nothing compared to the devastation that would reverberate should that driver get behind the wheel drunk again.
Beyond that, this is not a cost-prohibitive device, particularly when you consider the comparative cost of the rest of a DUI, with fines, impound fees, court costs and alcohol abuse education and intervention programs. The average DUI can easily cost between $5,000 and $24,000, depending on the state and number of convictions. That is assuming no one is seriously injured or killed. In those cases, the cost of a DUI – to taxpayers and innocent parties – is astronomical. The person who is behind the wheel in those cases often faces severe criminal penalties in addition to any civil liability that is determined.
So in that light, $90 monthly does not seem too high a price to pay to prevent further offenses from someone who has already shown indiscretion.
What’s more, there are subsidies available in the state for indigent drivers who truly cannot afford to pay the cost of that ignition interlock device. Some 11,000 drivers in this state already have the devices installed, which is only a quarter of the 40,000 who are convicted each year for drunk driving.
It’s worth noting also that drunk drivers last year killed 349 people on North Carolina’s roads. Research has shown that ignition interlock devices reduce recidivism by as much as half. Many of those involved in fatal DUI wrecks are repeat offenders. Imagine if we could reduce that figure by half.
Twenty-six other states have so far passed similar measures.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
MADD appeals to lawmakers to toughen drunken driving laws in North Carolina, June 30, 2015, ABC-11
More Blog Entries:
Kimminau v. City of Hastings – Truck Spill and Local Government Liability, July 20, 2015, Winston-Salem Accident Attorney Blog