Want the breathalyzer option? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Want the breathalyzer option?

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Should even first-time DUI offenders be forced to install an ignition interlock device in their car to make sure they don't drink and drive? The issue has been debated at the state capitol with powerful lobbying groups on both sides of the bill.

Mothers against Drunk Driving says requiring ignition interlocks for first time offenders would save lives. A huge restaurant trade association, says it would treat people who made one mistake like hard core offenders.

LifeSafer Interlock of South Georgia owner Dennis Irby installs another interlock breathalyzer device, and because of so many DUI offenders in Georgia business is booming. "If you are drinking, you will not drive. That is all there is to it. And it keeps our roads safe." Irby said.

 Proposed legislation that passed a state Senate committee would require every DUI offender, even first offenders, to have an interlock ignition device put on their car. If it detects more than a low threshold level of alcohol, it will not allow the car to crank, and it keeps testing.

"Every 2 to 20 minutes while you are driving down the road, it is going to make you blow in the machine again. You must continue to pass the test. You can not drive, stop and get a beer, and keep driving around. It will not let you do that," Irby said.

State law now requires only repeat offenders to install the interlock. The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, opposes the proposed legislation. The ABI Managing Director says "Requiring interlocks for hardcore offenders is a more effective way to fight drunk driving. It also happens to be a financially sound strategy."

The ABI said one study shows it would cost the state $9 million to enforce the program. Irby says he doesn't think the tougher law will pass the Georgia House this year, but believes it will pass eventually, and he says he is sure it will save lives.  "I don't think you can put a dollar figure on that. And I don't think we can put a dollar figure on safety."

The American Beverage Institute says this is an incremental campaign led by Mothers against Drunk Driving, to force this technology as standard equipment on all cars, which they said would stop people from being able to have a glass of wine at dinner or beer at a ball game and drive home.

Irby says the main value of the interlock device is educating DUI offenders, and teaching them they can't drive while drunk. He says only one percent of his 755 clients have ever been arrested again for DUI after having the device taken off their cars.

The General Assembly session is winding down, and the bill does not have time to pass both houses this year. A dozen states already have laws requiring first time DUI offenders to install the devices on their cars.


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