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Ignition Interlock

September 18, 1995
By: ELIZABETH MCKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Public Safety Department has begun reviewing devices designed to assure that convicted drunken drivers can't drive drunk again.

A new law passed last spring by the state legislature will require second-time DUI offenders traffic offense to install a breath alcohol ignition interlock device in the car. Judges will have the option of requiring these devices for first time offenders. The law takes effect in January.

Missouri joins 30 other states using the ignition interlock devices.

Connected to a car's electrical system, the device measures a person's breath alcohol content.

In order to start the car, the driver must pass with a breath alcohol content of no higher than 0.025 percent. Missouri's intoxication level is 0.1 percent.

In addition to the initial test, the driver must pass at least one rolling retest, which requires a breath alcohol test while driving. This feature prevents another sober person from starting the car for an intoxicated individual. If the person fails to retest successfully, the car's horn will honk and the emergency lights will flash.

Each violation, rolling and stationary, is recorded in a memory chip that only ignition interlock service stations can remove. If the car is not serviced after a violation, the driver is "locked out" and is unable to start the car until serviced by a interlock station.

"We're trying to control a person's behavior," said Richard Freund, president of Life Safer, a company wanting state certification. "That's how we produce results."

In 1994, 36,401 people in Missouri were arrested for drunk driving, said Ron Beck, communications director for the Missouri Highway Patrol. While no system is fool proof, the device is designed to reduce the number of repeat offenders from driving drunk again.

In other states, the interlock devices have reduced the number of repeat offenders from driving drunk again. Approximately 3.4 percent of previously convicted drunken drivers who have an interlock device are caught driving drunk again, compared to 9.8 percent without the device, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The Missouri Committee for Ignition Interlocks have not set any regulations for the devices, but will have to before the beginning of the year.

"We're taking an initial look at the products to set standards and procedures for the devices," said Mary Johnson, head of the committee.

The device will cost the offender, not the state, around $70 for installation and approximately $50-$60 per month afterwards.