Add breath-test devices to local anti-DUI efforts
Police set up roadblocks to catch drunken drivers last weekend and plan to continue the practice through the holiday season.
Surprise roadblocks netted 45 arrests for drunken driving last weekend as an early greeting of the holiday season, and drivers can expect random sobriety checkpoints around Oahu. The effort to reduce drunken driving should be carried into the upcoming legislative session and include approval of a measure allowing judges to order that breath-test devices be installed in the vehicles of repeat offenders.
Of the 161 people who died on Hawaii roads last year, 63 -- or 39.1 percent -- were in accidents that involved drunken drivers, according to a national survey by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The organization's Hawaii chapter says that 84 of the traffic deaths were "alcohol-related."
Hawaii's percentage of accidents involving impaired drivers, those with a blood-alcohol content of at least .08 percent, was fourth-highest in the country. The effort to combat drunken driving should focus on getting repeat offenders off the roads.
The most obvious tool in doing so is to allow judges to order ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders. The device requires a driver to breathe into it in order to start the engine. If it does start a short time later, the test must be repeated at certain intervals to make sure the car wasn't turned over to the offender after a friend breathed into it to start the engine. If so, the driver is warned before the horn honks and lights flash.
Hawaii is one of only fives states that have no interlock laws. Leah Marx, MADD's Hawaii director, says the chapter is working with the state Department of Transportation, police and prosecutor in crafting the law. Judges should have the option to order the use of such devices.
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