State program to combat drunk driving doesn't ignite interest in Douglas CountyThis past summer, the state began a new program aimed at combating the issue of unlicensed DWI offenders continuing to drive – and drive impaired – following their arrest.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
This past summer, the state began a new program aimed at combating the issue of unlicensed DWI offenders continuing to drive – and drive impaired – following their arrest.
The Ignition Interlock Program allows certain DWI offenders to regain driving privileges by having an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle.
The ignition interlock is a breath analyzer device that is wired into a vehicle’s starting system. If the driver has had too much to drink, the device will register it and prevent the vehicle from starting.
Since its inception, more than 400 participants have enrolled in the program, which is administered by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
According to Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, the sheriff’s office is not using the Ignition Interlock Program at this time.
Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels hadn’t heard about the program until contacted by the newspaper office.
A representative from the Douglas County Attorney’s Office said she was unaware of anyone using it in Douglas County and that as far as she knew, there were few counties in the state participating in the program.
A news release from the DPS states that anyone arrested for DWI in Minnesota can participate in the program, but must meet requirements, including paying a reinstatement fee and applying for a new license. Once enrolled, participants are then given limited or full driving privileges with the requirement that they drive a vehicle that has an ignition interlock device installed from one to six years, depending on the level of their offense.
Currently, there are about 13 states that have laws that require interlock use after a first-time DWI arrest, but Minnesota is not one of them.
Typically, a person arrested for DWI may not drive for at least 90 days, and in some cases, up to seven years depending on the offense level. Participating in the Ignition Interlock Program allows a person arrested for DWI to begin driving 15 to 30 days following the arrest, according to the DPS.
“The program’s purpose is to maintain safer roads and allow people to drive safely and legally so they can be a productive citizen,” said Jean Ryan, alcohol programs coordinator at the DPS office. “Participants can drive to work, attend AA meetings and treatment when required, and ensure that they will not drive impaired to avoid future DWI arrests – or worse – a fatal crash.”
The Interlock Ignition Program costs about $3 to $4 per day depending on the type of device. This doesn’t include installation, which is $90 to $100, or removal, which is $50. It also doesn’t include the driver’s license reinstatement fee, which is nearly $700 or the DWI driver’s exam fees, which can vary.
DWI offenders would need to pay the reinstatement and related license fees regardless of whether or not they participate in the program once they are permitted to regain their license.
One of the biggest questions regarding the ignition interlock device is, “What if I try to trick the device by having someone else blow into it?
According to the DPS, this is hard to do, in addition to being illegal and dangerous.
The device will require users to blow into it not just when the vehicle is being started, but also occasionally when the vehicle is in operation, according to the Ignition Interlock Program website, www.MinnesotaIgnitionInterlock.org.
The “rolling retests” are required to prevent the driver from having someone else blow into the device for them.
The interlock system will not shut off an engine if a breath test is failed, such as when doing the rolling retests.
The device was designed to prevent a vehicle from starting if a test was failed. A vehicle cannot be started if a test is not taken. The driver of the vehicle must blow into the device first in order to start the vehicle.
If a test is failed once the vehicle is in operation, the failed test will be recorded on the device as a violation. All tests recorded on the device are the responsibility of the person who is participating in the program.
For more information about this program, visit its website at www.MinnesotaIgnitionInterlock.org.