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Pilot program to make DUI offenders take breath tests before driving

June 14, 2010 |  4:29 pm
Motorists convicted of drunk driving will have to test their breath for alcohol before they start their vehicles under a pilot program set to begin in July in Los Angeles County and three other California counties.

DUI offenders convicted after July 1 will be required to install an ignition-interlock device that would prevent vehicles from starting if traces of alcohol are detected after drivers blow into a tube connected to the machine.  The program also goes into effect in Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare counties and runs through 2016.

Under the program, a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.03 or less will be required to start the car. The legal limit in California is 0.08.

The breath test would create additional monitoring of DUI offenders at no cost to taxpayers, said Arianna Smith, a spokeswoman for Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), who sponsored the bill that created the program

Smith estimated that the cost to drivers would be $75 to install the device and about $50 a month to monitor their activity. Low-income offenders would pay less, according to Smith.

First-time offenders would have to use the device for five months. A second offense would require the driver to use the device for a year. 

Smith said New Mexico and other states have had success with similar programs.

-- Robert J. Lopez