Sacramento Has Head Start on New Drunk Driving Law

the capitol building in sacramento, ca

If you’ve ever been hit by a drunk driver, this news might be a relief: a bill was signed into California state law last fall, requiring convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their cars to prevent and reduce drunk driving accidents.

The law goes into effect statewide on January 1, 2019, but residents of Sacramento County have already been subjected to the same rules as part of a pilot program that also included Los Angeles, Alameda, and Tulare counties. California joins twenty-eight other states and the District of Columbia in having strong IID laws in place for drunk driving offenders.

IIDs Effectively Prevent Drunk Driving Accidents

an example of the device used in sacramento drunk driving pilot program

By Rsheram / CC BY-SA 3.0

The device is basically a “breathalyzer” that requires the driver to blow into it, and prohibits the car from starting if the driver has blood-alcohol content of .08% or higher. According to Senator Jerry Hill’s press release, the DMV reported:

IIDs are 74 percent more effective than license suspension in preventing repeat offenses.”

The bill was carried by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an advocacy group that began in the Sacramento area and has spread in size and influence over the past few decades. In MADD’s evaluation of California’s ignition interlock pilot program, they state that interlocks prevented 1,024,667 drunk driving incidents since July 2010.

How the New California DUI Law Will Work

man upset after sacramento drunk driving accidentThe law is very similar to the pilot program that is already underway in Sacramento County, but with slight changes, it will stipulate that:

  • A first DUI offense that also involves an injury, an IID would be required for six months
  • A first DUI offense that involves no injuries, an offender may choose a six-month IID requirement with full driving privileges, or a one-year restricted license that would allow only driving to and from work if the offender also participates in a treatment program
  • A second DUI offense, an IID would be required for one year
  • A third DUI offense, the IID requirement is two years
  • A fourth or subsequent DUI offense, the IID requirement is three years

An IID typically costs $70 to $150 for installation, plus about $60 to $80 per month for monitoring and calibration. Low-income offenders will be offered an option to pay on a sliding scale of 10%, 25%, or 50% of the costs (the rest paid by the IID provider).

Hope That Drunk Driving Accidents Will Soon Decrease

The new law requires the California Transportation Agency to study and report on the program by January 1, 2025. The law will “sunset” on January 1, 2026, unless extended by the Legislature.

Based on the pilot program reports provided by the DMV and MADD, there is plenty of reason to expect that the California IID law will prevent many drunk driving accidents in the future, and will likely save thousands of lives.

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