A new law in Alabama requires motorists convicted of drunken driving to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles, although police have questions about how that law will be enforced.
The new requirement, which took effect Sept. 1, applies to convicted drunken drivers who had a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher. Before starting a car, they must exhale into a breathalyzer. If they have been drinking, the interlock will prevent the engine from starting.
First- and second-time offenders must keep the ignition interlock device on their cars for two years. They must also carry licenses showing they are required to use the device. A third conviction would mean a motorist must use an ignition interlock for three years, while a fourth conviction would require the device’s use for five years.
“I think this device will help, although I’ve not seen it yet,” Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge told The Anniston Star. “Anything we can do to prevent an individual from getting behind the wheel drunk is a good thing.”
Still, there are concerns over whether the law can be enforced. Ignition interlocks are not available in Calhoun County or other parts of Alabama outside of Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
“And we don’t have anybody locally who can install them yet,” Anniston police Sgt. Jim Studdard said. “It’s a good law, but they have to get the details worked out.”
Other law enforcement officials have questions about the costs involved. The law requires that offenders pay for the cost of installing an ignition interlock. Jacksonville Police Chief Tommy Thompson said he estimated the costs could range $500 and $600. He said it is already difficult to make sure convicted drunk drivers pay their court costs.
“I don’t know how the court would handle that,” Thompson said. “Although, I don’t even know where anybody would get one if the court ordered it (at this point).”