Task force aims to nix drunken driving

Published 3:56 pm Saturday, January 3, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — A task force has proposed a range of measures for state lawmakers to consider that aim to reduce the number of drunken driving incidents in Minnesota.

Proposals from the Minnesota DWI Task Force include seizing the license plates of offenders in all drunken-driving cases and lowering the blood alcohol concentration level required to impose stronger criminal penalties.

The 29-member task force strongly backed the installation of ignition interlock devices, which require drivers to submit a breath test before the vehicle will start. They said the breathalyzer-type devices installed on a vehicle’s dashboard reduce the likelihood that a drunken driver will reoffend.

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Studies have shown that drivers who opt to install the device are far less likely to re-offend than those whose choose to have their license suspended.

The cost of the ignition interlock device can be a deterrent; it costs around $100 to install the device and drivers are charged a recurring fee of up to $100 a month.

Since some drunken-driving offenders don’t own a car or can’t afford the device, Task Force chairman David Bernstein said requiring the device for all offenders is impractical.

“We want to be realistic and hope this bill passes to encourage ignition interlock for more drivers as one successful way of reducing drunk driving,” Bernstein said.

The task force suggested that the plates of all offenders be impounded, not just those of repeat drunken drivers or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .16 percent or more. Those who want to drive their vehicles again would be forced to install the ignition interlock.

The group has also recommended the blood alcohol level threshold for imposing stricter criminal penalties be lowered from .20 to .16, twice the legal limit for driving.