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Minnesota Legislature

Ignition pilot program extension (new law)

Published (5/1/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Expansion and extension of an ignition interlock pilot project that helps repeat DWI offenders get their driver’s license back earlier received gubernatorial approval.

Beltrami and Hennepin counties now participate in a pilot project that is scheduled to end on June 30.

Under the voluntary program, an ignition interlock device is installed on a vehicle and hooked up to its starter system. Before starting the vehicle, an offender must blow into a breathalyzer tube. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle won’t start.

“There’s been a lot of success and we’d like to expand it,” said Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls), who sponsors the law with Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). Signed April 30 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, it takes effect Aug. 1, 2009.

According to Jean Ryan, the impaired driving coordinator with the Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety, there have been about 75 participants in Hennepin County and three in Beltrami County.

“It’s been extremely effective. There haven’t been a lot of people trying to start their vehicle with the device after they’ve been drinking,” she told the House Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division March 27. “For those people that have jobs and they want to get a limited license to get to and from their job, it does provide that opportunity for them to get a limited license. But it still instills public safety on roadways.”

The participant pays a monthly fee of about $70 for the device, but supporters hope that cost would decrease if demand increases.

It is up to probation agencies to decide if they are willing to monitor the device if a person chooses to use the ignition interlock. “The probation officer in charge of the program in Hennepin County said they saved an awful lot of money by doing this,” Mullery said.

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