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Arizona Extreme DUI

Arizona Extreme DUI

First-time DUI offenders would have to equip their vehicles with an ignition interlock device to prevent them from driving drunk under a measure approved Tuesday by a Senate panel.

Three of five members of the Senate Transportation Committee voted to change the law, which currently applies only to repeat offenders and those convicted of extreme and aggravated DUI. House Bill 1243 would require people convicted of drunken driving for the first time to use the ignition devices for one year.

The bill still must be approved by the full Senate and House. advertisement

Drivers whose cars are equipped with the device must breathe into it so it can measure their sobriety before they can turn on their ignition.

The measure would make a two-year interlock installation mandatory for repeat, extreme or aggravated DUI offenders.

"Arizona hasn't been able to rein in drunken drivers because people ignore their citations," said Republican Linda Gray of Glendale, who sponsored the measure.

Senators took their action after hearing testimony from people such as Terri Teague of Camp Verde, who pleaded for lawmakers to crack down on drunken drivers, saying her 24-year-old son was killed last year by one.

"I lost my son to a drunk driver. We've got do something," an emotional Teague told lawmakers. "I don't want another family to suffer like we had to suffer."

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Apache Junction, opposed the bill, saying the penalty for first-time simple DUI is already tough enough since the person faces mandatory jail and fines.

"It's too harsh," said Rios of the 12-month interlock requirement for simple DUI, adding that it might be hard for some offenders to come up with the roughly $70 monthly fee to have the device in the vehicle. But Rios did join her colleagues as they unanimously approved another bill. House Bill 1240 would allow DUI offenders with a suspended driver's license to apply for a restrictive license. That would allow qualified DUI offenders to drive to work, school, treatment facilities and doctor's appointments, for instance, as long as they have an ignition interlock device in place.

"These are people who are driving anyway without a license," Gray said. "At least they won't be driving drunk."

There were 6,371 extreme-DUI offenders required to install the ignition lock in Arizona from September 2003 to August 2004, according to the Motor Vehicle Division. During the same period, 973 DUI offenders had their license suspended or revoked.

Not everyone believes the devices are as effective as Gray suggests. Marcia Harmon, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, expressed reservations about Gray's bills.

"There are some studies that the interlocks are effective," she said. "But there are others that show they do nothing to deter drinking and driving."

Part of the problem, she said, is that people find a way to circumvent having to breathe into the device to start the vehicle.

Meanwhile, other legislation has been introduced to tighten laws against alcohol consumption.

Gray and Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, are offering Senate Bill 1197, which would require establishments selling liquor to post signs warning pregnant women of the dangers of drinking any alcohol.

Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, is sponsoring House Bill 2525 calling for a six-month mandatory driver's license suspension of anyone supplying alcohol to those under 21. The bill would exempt religious ceremonies and a parent over 21 who provides liquor to the parent's child in his or her home.

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