Starting July 1, breath test ignition interlock devices will be required on the cars of Minnesota drivers who wish to continue to drive rather than having their license suspended after receiving repeat DWI offenses, or after having been caught driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .16 or higher. The new law mimics similar legislation already on the books in many states.
The ignition interlock devices, installed by a variety of companies at the offender’s expense, work by having the driver blow into the device while attempting to start their vehicle. If any trace of alcohol is registered by the device, the vehicle will not start for a specified period of time.
The installation of such interlock devices has been available in Minnesota for the last two years as an option for those convicted of DWI wishing to regain their driving privileges rather than wait out the license suspension period. The new law makes such devices mandatory in cases involving repeat offenders or those caught driving with a BAC level at or above .16. Currently there are only about 1,000 devices in service throughout the state, with an estimated expansion to roughly 15,000 devices by the summer of 2012.
Minnesota law enforcement officials end up charging roughly 30,000 people with drunk driving each year. With an estimated 75 percent of drivers continuing to drive illegally after a suspended license, the new law acknowledges the reality that most people need to continue driving to earn a living. The interlock devices aim to get drivers back out on the road safely and legally.
Source: The Star Tribune “Cars to demand proof of sobriety” by Abby Simons, 4/7/11