Use of DUI ignition interlocks devices up sharply in Connecticut
Norwich – Jacqueline Caron of Norwich has spent months learning the proper steps required to start her vehicle.
One recent afternoon, the 52-year-old got into her vehicle, inhaled deeply and then exhaled into a tube while humming “Whooo”.
After the former city councilor was convicted of DUI in August 2012, she was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months of probation and had her driver’s license suspended for forty five days before the ignition interlock device was installed in her vehicle. She is one of the 2,698 people in the state with an ignition interlock device in their vehicle currently.
Referencing a national study from Impact DWI Inc., MADD installation rates have increased by about 30,000 units a year for the past 8 years to more than 300,000 currently. They also told about the decrease nationally in DUI-related deaths during the same period.
According to MADD Connecticut Executive Director Janice Heggie Margolis, MADD is forcing interlock devices for all convicted DUI drivers and intends to reintroduce state legislation at the next legislative session.
In 2012, there were 3,773 DUI convictions in which 1st time offenders were not included who get their cases dismissed after finishing the pre-trial alcohol education program.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles said that in 2012, the interlock device was installed in 1,336 vehicles as compared to 2010 in which interlock devices were installed in 507 vehicles.
Margolis said, “Some drivers can’t or won’t change their behavior. It’s the only technology available to us right now that can keep a drunk driver off the road”.
In 2012, a legislation went into effect passed by the state that made installation of interlock devices mandatory in vehicles of 1st time offenders rather than second time offenders. Connecticut was just the 17th to mandate use for first-time offenders.
27,099 violations from 13th of January to 1st of August were registered by DMV.
For Caron, having the interlock device installed in her vehicle has been a frustrating experience. Her violation was one of the 5,252 violations logged for rolling tests. The machine randomly asks for a retest while on the road in a rolling test, and failure to test records a violation. She said she cannot properly blow into the device with enough breath for the device to read it due to the problem of her asthma. All of her violations have come during the rolling tests, frequently when she was on her way to her job.
Caron said that often she would not have room on the highway to pull over and does not want to try to take the test while negotiating traffic that, according to her, is probably more dangerous than texting. The device does not shut off the engine if a person is driving and records a violation; instead it gives a stop signal. She said “Texting, using the phone – try this. I’m on I-95 driving and this thing goes off. I’ve got one eye on the road… trying to blow into it until I pass”.
Caron’s story does not sound unusual, said lawyer Ronald Stevens who handles his share of DUI defendants in the New London judicial district. He said, “I feel the DMV is understaffed and overwhelmed with the people getting violations. These devices are temperamental”. He told that he represented 1 man with 100 violations; a man he said he knew was not drinking. “I’m hopeful as we work through this… regulations will be better understood. It is a work in progress. I do feel it’s a great thing. It allows drivers convicted of DUI to get back on the road, work, earn a living. If you lose your license, you lose your job” Stevens added.
News Source: www.THEDAY.com