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State Officials: Interlock Ignition DUI Law is Working

Illinois drivers convicted of DUI have two choices: losing their driving privileges or keeping them. Most people will choose the latter. When they do, they'll have to pass a breathalyzer test every time they drive their car.

For over a year, people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol have been able to apply to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must blow into the interlock ignition device on the dashboard, which detects alcohol in the person's breath. If more than a certain amount of alcohol is detected, the car won't start.

Beginning on January 1 of last year, Illinois, Nebraska, Alaska, Colorado and Washington all required the devices for drivers convicted for the first time of drunken driving.

A Major Change in DUI Law

The modification of the law was the first major change of drunken driving laws in Illinois since 1997, when the blood-alcohol limit for drivers was dropped to 0.08 percent.

Advocates of the ignition interlock systems say the law is saving lives. In 2008, 425 people died in DUI-related traffic crashes. Last year, fatalities dropped nearly 25 percent to 321 statewide.

Approximately 6,500 Illinois DUI offenders are now using the interlock devices. Drivers can incur significant costs to participate in the program. DUI offenders must pay approximately $250 to the state and also pay for installation and monthly fees, which run about $100 each month depending on the device.

How The Devices Work

Ignition interlocks are set to disable a vehicle if the driver's blood-alcohol content is detected at 0.05 percent or above. If the driver registers a level above the allowed amount, the device relays the information automatically to the Secretary of State's office. The person's driving privileges can then be revoked and the driver faces potential increased DUI penalties.

The ignition devices also test drivers periodically while the vehicle is in operation to prevent a DUI offender from having a friend blow into the device to start the car. If a driver ignores the device's prompt for a random test, the vehicle's headlights will flash and the horn will blow continuously to draw attention from police officers.

After such a violation, the DUI offender receives a letter from the state requesting an explanation of the incident. If the driver doesn't respond or submits an inadequate explanation, their driving suspension may be extended by three months and their driving privileges canceled. Three extensions can result in the vehicle being impounded for 30 days. Additional extensions may result in the vehicle being seized or forfeited, as well as additional DUI penalties.

If You Face DUI Charges or Have Been Convicted

If you have been charged with DUI or convicted of drunken driving, contact a DUI attorney who can assess your case and help protect your rights, privileges and freedom.