California Bill Proposes Ignition Locks for DUI Offenders

By Victoria Kim 01/06/15

The new bill could reduce the number of repeat DUI offenses and make California streets a bit safer. 


California DUI offenders may be required to install vehicle ignition locks that prevent the car’s ignition from starting if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is over a preset limit, if one lawmaker has his way.

Sen. Jerry Hill introduced Senate Bill 61 last week, which would establish a five-year pilot program that would require DUI offenders in California to install the ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. 

The device, which costs about $100 to $150 plus a $50 monthly maintenance fee, tests the driver’s breath for alcohol before starting the car, then periodically has the driver pull over and blow into the device again to avoid gaming the system, according to Hill. If the driver’s blood-alcohol level exceeds the preset limit, the car will not start. 

Under the law, first time DUI offenders would have to install the ignition interlock in their vehicles for six months; second time offenders must use the device for one year; third time offenders must use the device for two years; and people with four or more DUI convictions must use the device for three years.

Hill’s idea expands upon a pilot program underway in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties. Currently, 24 states have laws requiring all first-time offenders to use the devices. According to Hill, ignition interlocks have reduced DUI fatalities by more than 35% in states that require the devices. 

Repeat DUI offenders account for about a third of annual DUI convictions, according to Hill. New Mexico, which has the nation’s highest rate of per capita ignition interlock installations, has seen a significant decline in repeat drunk-driving offenses. DUI rearrest rates were 66% lower for people using the device than rates for those without the devices. In addition, recidivism in New Mexico was reduced by 75% and alcohol-related crashes declined 31% between 2002 and 2007.


“California needs to do a better job of reducing deaths and injuries from drunk drivers,” Hill said. “We must take action to prevent more drunk drivers.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr