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Friday, August 31, 2007

Counties implement DWI pilot project

The Hennepin and Beltrami County court systems are taking further steps to crack down on drunk driving -- and even assisting offenders in the process.

Earlier this year the Minnesota Legislature chose the two counties to test an “ignition interlock” program in the state. Ignition interlock is a device placed in a car that requires the driver to blow into it before starting the engine. If it measures alcohol in the driver’s breath, the vehicle won’t start.

The pilot program, which began in July, allows repeat DWI offenders who’ve had their licenses revoked to get them back sooner if they agree to installation of the ignition interlock in their cars. For many DWI offenders, getting their license back means they can finally get back to work. At $4 a day, however, the device isn’t cheap.

In a recent press release announcing the pilot program, Hennepin County District Court Chief Judge Lucy Wieland noted that 45 states have laws either authorizing or requiring use of the ignition interlock for repeat DWI offenders.

As one of the last states to implement the ignition interlock system, Minnesota seems a bit behind the times with this one. If it works -- and apparently it has elsewhere -- I guess it’s better late than never.

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