State Officials Praise Ignition Interlock

Posted at: 08/21/2013 10:27 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- We are in the middle of a drunk driving crackdown that's being enforced statewide, and while arresting those drivers who've had too much is a priority, so is preventing repeat offenders from even getting behind the wheel.
New technology is used to help keep potential drunk drivers from even starting their vehicle, it's ignition interlock, and the device is being credited with having an almost perfect record. A new report by state officials says less than 1% of those with ignition interlock re-offend. With almost 11,000 cases to study, many are calling it a success, but local authorities say it's still new and it isn't full proof.
"We know that in the time that they're on this, their ability to re-offend is significantly lower," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.
"In part, because it doesn't allow the driver to turn the vehicle on when alcohol is in their system," said Sgt. Tom Claymon with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department.
The concept is pretty simple, if you install one of them in your car, the car will only start if you blow below the legal limit. "This is for folks that have already established a pattern that they're going to continue to drink and drive and this is just a chance to derail them or at least take that weapon away from them," said Sgt Claymon.
Those who fit this mold have typically been caught drunk driving more than once. "When people get to their third or fourth DUI, the sanction needs to be significant,” said Ostrem. He says giving them a chance to drive is more like a benefit than a punishment. "It shouldn't be seen as a sanction and it shouldn't be used to otherwise minimize the sanction that they deserve," said Ostrem.
Plus there are ways around it, like driving a different car, getting caught doing that isn't much worse. "It's a misdemeanor offense," said Sgt Claymon.
Being that this technology is relatively new, those we spoke with say it could take some time to work out the kinks and report more accurate data. "For us, I think it's just a little early to tell if we're getting some significant reduction is recidivism," said Ostrem.
Another thing Mark Ostrem pointed out, if a driver graduates from the interlock system, who's to say they won't reoffend after that? Currently more than 7,000 people are using the interlock in Minnesota.