Proposed House Bill 43 would require in-car breathalyzers for all DWI offenders.
North Carolina law currently requires ignition interlock devices, in some cases, for offenders caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher and for repeat offenders.
If it became law, the new bill would have no exceptions for DWI cases.14 other states currently have similar laws in place.
The goal is to stop repeat offenders from driving drunk and prevent DWIs in the first place.
Executive Director of the Crash Prevention Network, Michael Jackson, has worked on anti-drunk driving campaigns for more than 24 years.
“It all began in 1990 for me when a 16-year-old girl was killed in December of ’89 that I loved a lot. She was a member of my church, and I knew her family well.”
Jackson has used that tragedy to kick-start a passion for preventing deadly car accidents in Guilford County.
He believes ignition interlock devices can be a successful tool to do so.
“If we could get interlock devices on all drunk driver’s vehicles, people who have been convicted, that would be outstanding,” he said.
“Realistically speaking, I don’t think it will ever happen with every DWI, like on the first offense. But it’s worth trying,” Jackson admitted.
“It’s a difficult balancing act,” explained Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. “I think it’s a very effective way of keeping an alcoholic from continuing to drive on the roads.”
O’Neill also told FOX8 he has concerns with the language of the bill as it’s currently written.
“A bill such as this could even increase the number of trials that we have, because there’s no incentive for a defendant to come in and plead guilty. So, perhaps a little tinkering with the bill,” he suggested.
With a backlog of DWI cases up to two years, O’Neill says it might be best to let judges decide if ignition interlock devices are necessary for cases where an offender blew below 0.15.
Only three companies in North Carolina install certified Ignition Interlock Devices.
One company, Monitech, offers several locations in the Triad and has thousands of customers locally.
“The unit requires a breath test to be taken before every single time the vehicle is driven,” explained Monitech Technician Michael Morton.
Morton said the device requires a clean breath sample every five to seven minutes while driving.
If alcohol is detected while a vehicle is in motion, the car’s lights will flash and the horn will honk, to encourage the driver to pull over.
“We support any measure that makes North Carolina’s roads safer,” said Morton.
“Anything we can do to protect our customers and other drivers in the state.”
Offenders are required to pay an installation fee and monthly monitoring fees for ignition interlock devices.
“Sometimes you have to hit people in the pocket-book,” said Jackson