A new law going into effect on Friday will further crack down on drunk drivers in Minnesota.
Under the new law, repeat DWI offenders and first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is at least double the legal limit of 0.08 will have to use an ignition interlock device to drive legally in the state. The law is a statewide expansion of a successful pilot program, which is already in place in Hennepin County.
An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer, installed in a motor vehicle's dashboard, that tests a driver's blood-alcohol concentration before the vehicle can be started. If a driver’s breath exceeds a preset alcohol content limit—which will be 0.02 under the new law—the car won’t start. Also, once the engine has started, the IID will randomly require another breath sample, preventing a friend or relative from breathing into the device and enabling an intoxicated person to get behind the wheel. If a driver fails a test, the vehicle will not operate.
Under the law, first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is below 0.16 will have a choice of getting a limited license, as with current law, or getting full driving privileges provided they use the ignition interlock device.
According to a statement from the Minnesota House of Representatives, the goal of the new law is to keep, “people who drink and drive off state roadways.”
Alcohol-related crashes account for approximately one-third of all state traffic deaths each year. The 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010 is a drop from the 141 in 2009 and represents the lowest count since 1984, when this statistic was first measured. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety attributes some of this drop to the ignition interlock system.
Under the new law, it would be a misdemeanor to tamper with the device or to breathe into the device in place of a driver. The law was sponsored by former Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) and former Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing).
Hennepin County DWI Incidents 2008 -2010
Hennepin County DWI Incidents 2010