Georgia will expand its use of ignition interlocks if the state’s legislature passes a drunk driving bill that would make interlock installation mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.15 and any suspected drunk driver who refuses to take a breath test. Under current Georgia DUI law, only repeat drunk driving offenders are required to install an interlock in their vehicles, and they only have to keep it installed for six months.
In place of interlocks, some convicted DUI offenders and suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breath test are issued limited driving permits that allow them to drive only to places such as work, school, treatment and support meetings, and doctor’s appointments. House Bill 671 would also do away with such permits and order offenders to install interlocks instead.
The proposed legislation would also require DUI offenders ordered to install the device to keep the device installed for one year. Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows thinks replacing limited permits with interlocks is a smart move, considering how many offenders violate limited permits. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), about 3 out of 4 drivers with a DUI-related suspended license continue to drive.
Opponents of the bill might see interlock installation, which allows DUI offenders to drive anywhere, as less harsh of a punishment for DUI. However, sponsors and supporters of the bill are more interested in preventing drunk driving and saving lives than they are in punishing offenders. Ignition interlocks enable DUI offenders to work, go to school, pick up their kids, run to the grocery store, and remain productive citizens while driving safe and sober.
House Bill 671 is currently before the Georgia House of Representatives and will move on to Senate if passed by the House.