Allow disabling devices in cars of DUI repeaters
Legislators are proposing that repeat DUI drivers be required to install a device that keeps their cars from starting if they're drunk.
Hawaii is among only five states that have neglected to use modern technology to prevent repeat drunken drivers from starting their cars' engines when impaired. Lawmakers who have ignored such proposals during the last two legislative sessions should allow judges to require repeat offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles.
Hawaii's alcohol-related traffic deaths have increased from an average of 51 deaths per year from 1999 through 2001 to 73 deaths yearly from 2002 through 2006, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Hawaii has the highest percentage of traffic deaths involving alcohol, according to the organization.
Republican legislators propose a bill requiring repeat DUI offenders to install in their cars an alcohol ignition interlock system, a breath-test device that prevents a drunk person from starting the engine. The test must be repeated at certain intervals to make sure that a friend had not breathed into it to start the engine.
The GOP proposal would prevent judges from using discretion in ordering the device's installation. Indeed, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt is asking that his state's judges, who now have that discretion, be required to order that the locks be installed by drivers convicted of a second or more offense. In 2005, Missouri courts required only 19 percent of repeat offenders to install them.
Judges should be allowed to exercise a degree of flexibility in sentencing but should not use it at the drop of a hat. Legislation that includes conditions for them to do so should be tailored to keep judges from exercising discretion excessively.
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