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Public safety panel OKs plan to expand state's ignition interlock program

If you have to blow into a tube before your car can start, you’ve got an ignition interlock installed.

Minnesota roads would be much safer if more of these devices were in vehicles, says Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth).

She sponsors HF1199, which would require a person whose driver’s license was revoked for a second DWI in 10 years or third lifetime DWI to get an ignition interlock device installed in order to get back on the road.

Under current law, those thresholds are a third or more DWI in 10 years or fourth or more DWI in the person’s life.

By a vote of 18-0, the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill, as amended, Tuesday, and sent it to the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. The companion, SF1101, sponsored by Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Chanhassen), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

“The goal of this legislation is to reduce the number of drunk driving incidents and to decrease recidivism rates,” Klevorn said.

The bill would require use of an ignition interlock device — that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a certain alcohol concentration level after the driver blows into the tube — for one year if the person committed a second DWI violation in 10 years or a third violation in the person’s lifetime, and for two years if the violation involved an alcohol concentration of at least twice the legal limit or refusal to submit to an authorized test.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the bill, and in written testimony noted ignition interlocks have prevented 551,068 attempts to drink and drive in Minnesota in the past 13 years, including 81,605 attempts to drive drunk with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater.

In the testimony, MADD National President Alex Otte cited a 2016 California Department of Motor Vehicles' study showing that third-time offenders who only had a suspended license were 3.4 times more likely to have a fourth DWI conviction or incidence compared to interlocked offenders.

Interlocks cost around $3 a day to lease, according to the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Department of Public Safety, which manages the Ignition Interlock Device Program. Minnesota drivers can obtain the device at a reduced rate from an interlock vendor if they cannot afford it.

Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) successfully amended the bill to require state-certified interlock device manufacturers “to pay any towing or repair costs caused by device failure or malfunction, or by damage caused during device installation, servicing, or monitoring.”

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