Colorado, along with Texas, has led the pack in the number of ignition interlock devices installed for DUI offenders. Texas has over 33,000 devices in use, while Colorado has 17,000 in use. If the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act passes, the federal government may mandate the use for all DUI offenders.
Tucked into this bill is a portion that would make installing ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of all people convicted of a DUI, even those with very low blood alcohol content readings. Currently, judges have the right to determine when these devices are needed, and are typically reserved for repeat offenders or those that had very high BACs.
The alcohol industry, along with many drivers, feel that that right should stay with the local jurisdiction, but supporters of the bill point to Colorado’s DUI fatality statistics to back their agenda.
In 2008, Colorado had 176 fatalities related to drunk drivers. That number decreased to 158 in 2010 and 127 in 2011. It is hard to say that the ignition interlock devices were the only reason for the decrease, especially when you consider that there have been major initiatives for education and prevention around the state during the same period of time.
Should the bill pass, the federal government would have control over what BAC constitutes use of the ignition interlock device. To offset the costs of implementing the program, the bill calls for a $25 million grant to the states for participation. In Colorado, the device is paid for by the offender. Many of those against the bill believe the cost of the device should be the burden of the offender, while supporters say that using tax dollars to pay for the devices is a safety worth paying for.