Let judges require breath-test devices
The governor's Highway Safety Council has recommended that judges be allowed to order breath-test devices in drunken-driving offenders' cars.
JUDGES in most states have the option of requiring drunk-driving offenders to install breath-test devices in their vehicles and to pass a test whenever they start the ignition. Next year's Legislature should heed Gov. Linda Lingle's Highway Safety Council recommendation
and provide Hawaii's judges the same discretion.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has encouraged use of ignition interlock devices to prevent convicted drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, but the gadget's use is not necessarily punitive. Judges may decide that the device is preferable to suspending or revoking an offender's license, allowing the person to drive to and from work, school or church.
Where the devices are used, the offender is charged the cost of about $150 for installing it and monthly fees for monitoring. Hawaii is among only four states that don't have laws allowing their use, according to Mitchell Roth, co-chairman of the governor's council. In four states, their use is mandatory for all first-time offenders.
In vehicles carrying the device, the driver must breathe into it. If alcohol exceeds a preset level, the car's engine won't start. The test must be repeated at certain intervals to make sure the offender didn't have a friend breathe into it to start the engine and turn the wheel over to the offender. If that happens, the driver is warned before the horn honks and lights flash. The offender faces possible jail time by driving another vehicle.
This year's Legislature passed a resolution asking for the state Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of allowing use of the devices. The safety council's recommendation should warrant legislation letting judges order their installation on offenders' vehicles.
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