New DUI bill aims to crack down on repeat offenders


Local police agencies and the CHP are backing a bill by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of Palo Alto which calls on the use of technology to crack down on drunk driving. While sobriety checkpoints can be effective, Hill believes stronger deterrents are needed. The thinking behind the proposed crackdown on repeat offenders is to address what Hill says is a high rate of drunk drivers who don't modify their behavior. He cites 2009 statistics, the most recent numbers available. "There were 161,000 DUI arrests and convictions in California, and 27 percent of those were repeat offenders," he said.

A second DUI conviction would require a driver to buy and install an ignition intercept device where a breath sample is taken and the car will start only if the driver passes the test.

Law enforcement agencies say sobriety checkpoints llike a recent one in Los Altos help intercept drunk drivers and take them off the street. For example, Redwood City police officers have checked 15,000 vehicles so far this holiday period and made 18 arrests. They support Hill's bill as an additional deterrent. "This legislation that is being proposed today is actually needed to be added as part of the arsenal we have in deterring people thst may not just have the will, the dedication, or the moral fortitude to not drive drunk," Redwood City police Capt. Gary kirby said.

The ignition intercept device costs about $100 initially but requires ongoing calibration to ensure accuracy. That can run an additional $50 to $100 every two months.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving would prefer the law to be tougher. "MADD would prefer that the IID's be installed on every DUI-convicted persons' car. In the meantime, this legislation is a great stop gap," MADD spokesperson Jody Eaton Iorns said. She says "stop gap" because four California counties, including Alameda County, are in the midst of a pilot project in which the ignition devices are required after the first DUI conviction. She hopes feedback from the pilot project over the next couple years might provide ammunition that leads to an even tougher law.

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