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Alabama law to require breathalyzers for convicted drunken drivers

Jared Downing

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Alabama is taking a new strategy in the fight against drunken driving: Stopping intoxicated drivers before they even start the car.

A new law will require the cars of certain people with DUI charges to be fitted with a device that disables the ignition if the driver is intoxicated. The device uses a breathalyzer to test the driver’s blood-alcohol content. Score too high, and the car won’t start.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the Ignition Interlock program will affect anyone convicted of a DUI after the law went into effect earlier this month.

In addition, something will be added to the licenses to DUI offenders to alert police of the driver’s restriction. Driving a car without an interlock device, intoxicated or not, is worthy of a full arrest, not just a ticket.

“I think it’s a great idea to keep the streets safer,” said sophomore Aaron Hinkleman, who drives a bike taxi around town.

Hinkleman usually works until bar closing, and said when he started the job, he was amazed by the number of drunken drivers on the street.

“We deal with it a lot,” he said. “The safety of others also plays into it.”

Senior Sydney Warda supports the program’s intent but suspects restricted drivers will just find ways to get around it.

“They’ll just have another person blow into it or something like that,” she said.

Warda said she doesn’t mind the ignition interlock itself, but such invasive measures could lead to bigger privacy concerns.

“It could go down the rabbit hole,” she said. “Who knows what else they could monitor. They could put it on your speedometer to stop you from speeding.”

It will be some time before the DPS actually begins installing the breathalyzers. According to an Associated Press report, although the Department of Forensic Sciences, which oversees the ignition interlock itself, is already working with two manufacturers, it will need time to finalize the specific rules for the device.

“It’s reaching into your life a lot,” Warda said. “But then again, I’ve never had a friend who was killed in a drunken driving accident.”

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Alabama law to require breathalyzers for convicted drunken drivers