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Ignition Locks Added To State's 24/7 Program

June 22, 2012, 5:07 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Ignition Locks Added To State's 24/7 Program

They're proven to keep repeat drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and putting your family at risk.  And they'll soon be making roads safer all across the state.  South Dakota's 24/7 program is growing again.

When it started seven years ago, it required convicted drunk drivers to take a breathalyzer test twice a day to make sure they stay sober.  In 2006, the program incorporated 800 ankle bracelets to track some of the more serious offenders.  Now, after a six-month pilot program, ignition locks will soon be found in vehicles across the state.

The idea is simple: install a breathalyzer into a convicted drunk driver's car, and if the device detects they are drunk, the vehicle won't start.

"The computer will tell you if the 0.00; if it is, your car starts," Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

But adding ignition interlocks into the 24/7 sobriety program's tool box came with some concerns. Like how would the device hold up in cold South Dakota weather?  And what if the offender just had their sober friend blow into the tube? That's why 24/7 program coordinator Art Mabry and ten offenders participated in a six-month pilot program in Lincoln County.

The devices passed the test and will be implemented statewide.

"It's not going to replace anything, but it will be just one more option for the local sheriff as well as the judge to ensure that if a repeat offender is out that they're being held accountable and that they're not breaking the law or endangering other individuals," Jackley said.

Jackley says the interlocks passed the cold weather test and the devices now include a webcam.

"You blow in it, you can see from the camera that it's the right person blowing in it," Jackley said.

That's why Jackley says now is the time to start installing interlocks in the vehicles of drunk drivers statewide.

"It really makes it tamper proof and that was the one instance we had in the pilot program where an individual was caught trying to beat the system, so to speak. We were able to find that out because of the camera and I think that evidence is the fact that ignition interlocks are ready to be made a part of the very successful South Dakota 24/7 program," Jackley said.   

Like the ankle bracelets the interlocks will be installed in the vehicles of some of the more serious offenders.  But many convicted drunk drivers will still have to take their daily breathalyzers at the county jail or sheriff's office.
The interlocks are paid for by the offenders at a rate of about $5 a day.

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