State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, joined law enforcement officials Dec. 28 in San Francisco to tell residents of a new state law that went into effect on New Year’s Day for people convicted of driving drunk.
Senate Bill 1046, authored by Hill, requires that repeat DUI offenders and first-time offenders involved in injury crashes install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
Also known as an IID, the device calls for the driver to blow into a tube, which measures their blood alcohol concentration. If the would-be driver’s breath is above a preset level, the device prevents the vehicle from starting.
The new law, which is an expansion of a pilot program implemented in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties between 2010 and 2015, went into effect statewide on Jan. 1, 2019.
“Driving under the influence kills more than one thousand people every year and injures over 20,000,” Hill said. “Senate Bill 1046 mandates ignition interlock devices for all repeat DUI offenders and if first offenders want to continue to drive … after they get arrested with a DUI, rather than get a suspended license, they can drive as long as they install an ignition interlock device.
“This is about saving lives. It’s about trying to prevent those from getting behind the wheel,” Hill said.
According to Hill, DMV data show that DUI drivers with IIDs in California are 73 percent less likely to be convicted of a subsequent DUI or an accident compared with convicted DUI drivers with no device.
Over the last 30 years, more than 50,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million have been injured due to drunk driving in California, according to Hill’s office.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said the new law’s launch coincides with increased efforts by the Police Department to prevent drunk driving as New Year’s Eve approaches.
Scott added that the California Office of Traffic Safety has awarded the Police Department a $237,000 grant for increased public safety and enforcement efforts.
“Staying safe is simple: designate a driver when going to functions where there will be drinking. Please make use of public transportation; public transit, Muni, BART or ride-share services will help. We don’t want you to start the new year in custody, or even worse, in the hospital or at our medical examiner’s office,” he said.
According to California Highway Patrol Capt. Aristotle Wolfe, this year the CHP has seen an increase in statewide drunk driving arrests, up by 20 percent from last year.
During the Christmas holiday, Wolfe said 230 people were arrested in the Bay Area for drunk driving. That number is a roughly 50 percent increase from last year, he said.
Wolfe said drivers on New Year’s Eve should expect more law enforcement out in the community and the possibility of DUI checkpoints.
Story originally published by Bay City News.