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New Mexico: Offenders could have Breathalyzers in their Homes

It doesn’t matter where you live, getting a DUI is going to affect many aspects of your life. One of the common punishments people face once they receive a conviction is an ignition interlock device, or breathalyzer that has to be installed in their cars. When someone gets into their car, they must blow into the interlock system to prove they haven’t been drinking. The device has been developed to detect any traces of alcohol in someone’s system and a driver must do this every time they start the car. They also have to complete random tests while the car is in operation. It’s recommended that you pull to the road side or another safe spot to blow into the device again.

It was developed to help prevent DUI/DWI offenders from repeating their same crime but some groups in New Mexico want to take it a step further. Some people, although convicted of a DUI/DWI, don’t own a car and therefore cannot have an interlock system installed on their vehicle. So Impact DWI, an advocacy group based in Santa Fe, thinks that offenders without cars should have breathalyzers in their home. They would have to blow in the device in the morning and the evening. Right now, New Mexico requires that even first offenders have a breathalyzer installed in their car but Richard Roth, director of Impact DWI, says that roughly half of these people don’t ever install the systems, rendering their punishment insignificant. So if breathalyzers were installed in houses, even if offenders aren’t driving, they wouldn’t be able to indulge in alcohol.

This might cause some problems because those that own a car and have a breathalyzer would still be able to drink a beer while they were sitting in their own home. It’s uncertain if this legislation will pass but it’s up for debate in January. There’s no denying that New Mexico is trying to crack down on drunken drivers. Governor Susana Martinez wants an 8th DWI to be a second degree felony which send offender to prison for 15 years. By the time you get 8 DWI’s, there’s no doubt that serious action needs to be taken but would installing a breathalyzer in someone’s home help DWI rates? The issue of personal liberties is up for debate here as well but breathalyzers are definitely here to stay at least in cars.

Breathalyzer As a Way to Lower Insurance?

Some have looked into this as a way of lowering insurance rates. We all know that when you get a DWI, your insurance premiums sky rocket and you can even risk cancellation depending on your previous driver history. A breathalyzer in your car is just an add on at that point but what about a breathalyzer to lower your insurance rates? At this point, some insurance companies have begun to offer monitors that are installed in your car to help determine good driving habits. As the machine gathers data, you have the potential to lower your rates based upon good driving habits. Some interlock companies are attempting to follow suit and propose that by installing a breathalyzer on your car, even if it isn’t court ordered, could potentially be a way to lower your insurance rates. If you consistently test for no alcohol, it would prove that you are a safe driver making good decisions, therefore less liability to the insurance company. But the insurance company isn’t taking the bait just yet.

For starters, the breathalyzer system is incredibly expensive

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to install and maintain. Let’s take Florida for example. Just to have the system installed is over $80 and there is a monthly fee of $ 67.50 because the system has to checked and monitored by a professional service. It’s likely that the amount you save in your insurance is going to reap enough savings to shell out an additional $70 every month. So some groups are trying to bypass the interlock companies and head straight for the auto industry. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) proposed that Congress set a standard for interlock installation, requiring that everyone who had been convicted of a DUI have a breathalyzer installed in their car after the first offense. Laura Dean-Mooney of MADD says that, “The national 21 minimum drinking age and the .08% law [for allowable alcohol in the bloodstream]

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both resulted from federal highway sanctions. History tells us that this approach works.”

Breathalyzer Technology

But not everyone is convinced that this is the right move. Some people believe that this could be a slippery slope to all car being installed with breathalyzer technology. While we all know that it’s illegal to drink and drive, the legal limit is set at .08. The breathalyzer has a zero tolerance policy so it would be in direct conflict with the current law. And the fact that interlock technology is not standard and comes from multiple sources means that the quality of each machine can differ. Some systems takes pictures of drivers and use cameras and facial recognition to determine if the driver is drunk. Other systems require that people hum and blow into the device to check for traces of alcohol.

Breathalyzers and Your Insurance

It’s been proven that an interlock is an effective method for preventing drunk drivers from committing the same crime, but right now it doesn’t seem like a useful tool for lowering insurance rates for normal people. But breathalyzers in cars make sense for people convicted of DUI’s. It’s a great way to make sure they aren’t drinking and driving and in places like New Mexico, it’s been a proven way to lower DUI fatalities. That may be why some residents are eager to place these devices in offender’s homes but that may taking it a step too far. If you want to avoid a breathalyzer, don’t drink and drive. You will save a lot of money in ticket fees and you’ll be able to enjoy your low insurance rates.