Anyone convicted of DUI would have to pass a breathalyzer test before their car would start under a new bill filed in the South Carolina Statehouse.
Currently the car ignition device known as an “ignition interlock” system is required for a second DUI offense. The device prevents the engine from starting until a breath sample has been provided, analyzed for alcohol content, and determined to be lower than prescribed limits. 17 states require interlocks for first-time offenders.
However, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended in a recent report that all states require the devices. South Carolina legislators tried to toughen the law last year. A proposed bill cleared the state Senate, but did not reach the House until late in the session.
Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Columbia) has pre-filed a similar bill for next year’s session. S.137 would give a person who is convicted of DUI the option of having their license suspended or getting an ignition interlock device installed on their car. The same would be true for a person who refuses a breathalyzer test. In both cases, the person would be required to use the device for as long as their license would have otherwise been suspended.
“We continue to rank as one of the deadliest states in the nation with regards to alcohol-related deaths on our highways,” Lourie said. “So, we’re not doing enough.”
The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade group, has historically opposed ignition-interlock for first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol level is only slightly above the legal limit. The group cites statistics showing that most alcohol-related deaths are caused by repeat offenders who are already required to use the system under existing state law, but do not. “While drunk drivers will — as they already do — find ways around this technology, millions of responsible social drinkers will be inconvenienced and will not invest in disabling their device (and it may become illegal to do so),” the group says on its website.
However, Lourie said he believes a person forfeits their driving privileges once they have been caught with alcohol in their blod. “You get a high blood-alcohol content on your first offense, we’re not going to wait and let you make that mistake again.”
The Senate returns to session on January 8. A hearing on the bill has not yet been scheduled.