MADD Breathes Life into Ignition Interlock Law

Representative Sharon Har
Representative Sharon Har
MADD Hawaii Founder Carol McNamee
MADD Hawaii Founder Carol McNamee

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Some lawmakers plan to zero in on drunk drivers this upcoming legislative session. They're turning to technology to keep a closer eye on repeat offenders. On Thursday, they looked at a device that does just that.

The system involves a breath analyzer connected to the ignition of a vehicle. If you've been drinking, the device won't let you start your car.

It's designed to keep convicted drunk drivers from repeating their crime - a breath test device that detects alcohol.

If you fail?

"The car will not start. I won't be able to turn the key any further," said MADD Hawaii Executive Director Leah Marx.

This ignition interlock system has sparked interest among lawmakers.

"I am such a firm proponent of this ignition interlock device. In March 2006, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. He was a 24-year-old gentleman and this was his 4th DUI and his license had been revoked," said Representative Sharon Har.

"We have had a tremendous increase in alcohol related fatalities in the last few years and especially last year where we had 84 alcohol related fatalities," said MADD Hawaii Founder Carol McNamee.

Convicted DUI offenders would pay for the interlock device, and those who can't afford it?

"We will charge {those who can afford it} a fee for the placement of the device as well as the monitoring of the device and those fees would go into a fund for those who are not able to pay so it will never be taxpayer money that would be utilized," said Har.

The device can also keep offenders from cheating, using what's called a rolling re-test.

"If someone did manage to blow into it for you, if you have been drinking, within 2 to 5 minutes usually I'll have to retest as I'm driving, it'll give me time to pull over and I will actually have to test again," said Marx.

It's a test MADD hopes lawmakers will pass.

MADD says Hawaii is one of only five states remaining that does not have an ignition interlock law.

No official bills are out yet. Lawmakers are still ironing out details and are expected to have a final draft by the end of the month.