New York DUI Law Requires Ignition Interlock Devices

By Topher

When the newly adopted Leandra’s Law goes into effect, New York will be the 10th state to require that anyone convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, the New York Times is reporting.

An ignition interlock device keeps a car from starting until the driver proves, via a breath test, that he or she does not have any alcohol in their system. The new law in the state is Leandra’s Law, named for a young girl who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver. Her father, Lenny Rosado, became an outspoken advocate of tougher DUI laws after he lost his daughter.

The law will also make it a felony to drive drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car.

Those required to install the ignition interlock device will have to keep it installed for a minimum of six months. The device must be installed at the driver’s expense. They are leased to drivers for a monthly charge of $70-110, according to the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. Installation of the devices can be free, or can range in cost to up to $100.

According to the director of the OPCA, Robert Maccarone, an average of 25,000 drunk driving convictions come down every year in New York State – 4,000 of which occur in New York City.

The ignition interlock devices, which must be purchased from one of several state-contracted manufacturers, have a very low tolerance for alcohol levels in the breath of drivers. A car with the device won’t start if it registers anything that is above a .025 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit is .08 percent.

There are a number of ways to deter falsified tests, as well. To keep a sober accomplice from blowing into the device, they have rolling retests, which administer another test every 5 to 15 minutes. This means that, to cheat the device again, the drunk driver would need to have the same sober friend with them.

When a retest fails, the horn starts to beep, and then a loud noise is admitted from the ignition interlock device.

There are also devices that snap a photo of the driver at the time the test is administered. Devices can also be configured to limit the hours a driver can drive the car, and they can resist hot-wiring and push-starting.

Denna Cohen, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Long Island chapter, says that the new law going into effect will save lives. “This is absolutely effective,” she said. “One drunk driver is all it takes to wreak havoc on a family.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees that the devices are effective. “We know that alcohol interlocks do work to reduce recidivism, and strengthening interlocks to include first offenders is the logical step to curb alcohol-impaired driving,” said Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the group.

Maccarone said that, in New Mexico, a similar program reducing repeat DUI offenses by 37 percent between 2002 and 2008.

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