The state is preparing to launch a new program that will require people arrested for drunken driving to install an in-car breathalyzer device to drive.
Officials will select a vendor in the next two months to administer the program, which is expected to mandate the installation of about 3,300 of the devices in cars in Hawaii each year.
The program begins Jan. 1.
INTERLOCK PROGRAM DETAILS
Beginning Jan. 1, all Hawaii drivers arrested for drunken driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device to drive.
The law, passed by the Legislature in 2009, requires all drunken drivers — including first-time offenders — to install an ignition interlock device in their cars, in place of the current system, that initially bans all driving and then only allows driving under certain conditions.
Starting Jan. 1, drivers will blow into a hand-held device that will not allow their car to start if their blood alcohol level is above .02.
The owner of the vehicle will pay the estimated $80 installation cost and a monthly fee of $75 to $90.
"This program will not cost the state any money," said state Rep. Sharon Har (D, Royal Kunia-Makakilo-Kapolei), who wrote the legislation. "Essentially the offender is renting the ignition interlock from the company. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Once a driver abuses that privilege, I have no problem charging that offender."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Hawaii prefers to call the devices "in-car breathalyzers, because it’s much more descriptive," said Arkie Koehl, MADD Hawaii State Operations Council chairman.
The vendor will subcontract with installation centers on all islands as well as subsidize the cost for indigent drivers who cannot afford the monthly costs.
Drivers will have to report to a center once or twice a month to download their vehicles’ data to show "evidence of circumvention or tampering," Koehl said. "Basically, you have to prove that you’ve been a good boy."
It will also be illegal for anyone to tamper with the device or help a driver circumvent it.
The data, including photos of anyone using the breathalyzer, also will be forwarded to probation officials to monitor, for example, whether drivers are failing the breath test.
"It’s more than just getting drunk drivers off the road," Har said. "We’re dealing with the entire paradigm of substance abuse."
Most of the drivers receiving the devices will be first-time offenders who must use them for a year, Koehl said. People with second offenses must have them for 18 months; drivers facing a third offense will have to use them for two years.
In addition to requiring a breathalyzer test to start a car, the system intermittently requires drivers to blow into the breathalyzer while under way in order to keep on driving.
"The technology is amazing," Har said.
Alabama, South Dakota and Vermont are the only states without in-car breathalyzer programs, she said.