FRANKFORT — People convicted of drunk driving might have to pass a breathalyzer test each time they start their vehicle under a bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday.
House Bill 58 would give a judge the option of ordering a breath-alcohol monitoring device for a person's vehicle after their first conviction for driving under the influence. The ignition lock requires a person to blow into it before starting the car. If the person's too drunk to drive, the car won't start.
A person who is convicted of DUI would pay $2 to $3 a day for the device, which could be required for up to a year, said Democratic Rep. Dennis Keene of Wilder, who sponsored the bill.
The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved the bill 22-0. It now heads to the full House for consideration.
Keene said he decided to sponsor the measure after his daughter was injured in 2002 when a drunk driver hit her just a week before her high school graduation. She was forced to go through three operations.
Cost should not be an issue for any drunk driver, Keene said.
"These criminals can afford to buy liquor," he said, noting that $3 a day was the average cost of a beer in a bar.
Even though Kentucky law allows for the suspension of a driver's license after a DUI offense, supporters say that's not enough to stop drunk drivers from driving.
"We also know that between 50 to 70 percent of those whose licenses have been suspended continue to drive," said Angela Criswell, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Keene said most people who have been convicted of a DUI first offense are not social drinkers who had too much at a wedding. Many have driven drunk more than 80 times before being arrested, he said.
Criswell said that the devices have "anti-circumvention" measures that would make it difficult for someone other than the driver to blow into the device.
New Mexico, which approved a similar law several years ago, has seen a 65 percent drop in DUI-related offenses and a 35 percent decrease in the number of people who have died in DUI-related traffic accidents, Criswell said.
A similar measure passed the House last year but died in the last few days of the legislative session because of time constraints. Keene said he believes there is enough support for the bill to pass the House and the Senate.
Keene acknowledged on Tuesday that he has a brother who works for one of seven companies that supply the interlock device, but said he doesn't believe that is a conflict of interest.
If the bill passes, "there will be even more companies" that will likely offer the device, Keene said. "It would be like if I was a real estate agent and I voted for a bill that helped all real estate agents."