Almost every state in the U.S. requires some, if not all, convicted drunk drivers to install a car breathalyzer, or ignition interlock, in their vehicles for a specific period of time. But with an installation fee that falls between $70 and $250 and a monthly cost of about $60 to $90, car breathalyzers can be a bit pricey for some DUI offenders. To ensure that these drunk drivers don’t fall through a loophole, states set up a fund for low-income drunk drivers who are required to install an interlock but can’t afford it. The fund pays for all or part of the device for drivers who qualify for financial help.
However, Washington state’s car breathalyzer fund has unexpectedly run dry, which could put some convicted drunk drivers back on the road without the protection of an interlock. In fact, local news station King 5, reports that more than 2,000 convicted drunk drivers in Washington are losing financial help for a car breathalyzer. In Washington, an interlock costs offenders about $150 each month, but those who qualify for the state’s Ignition Interlock Revolving Account are given around $80 per month to help pay for the device. The alternative now that those funds are gone? A driver’s license suspension.
While the intention of a license suspension is to prevent people from driving legally, it doesn’t necessarily stop DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), three out of four convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. Considering the fact that DUI offenders still have to go to school, work, and/or substance abuse treatment, the decision to drive illegally is understandable. However, car breathalyzers allow offenders to drive legally so that they can continue being productive citizens without put themselves or other road users in harm’s way.
According to State Rep. Judy Clibborn, the fund money, which comes from fees paid by DUI offenders who purchase interlocks, was funneled into an account for prison inmate treatment programs during the last budget. Clibborn further reports that the funding will be restored but did not reveal how.