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Ignition interlock devices could be required for repeat MN DWI offenders

If a bill that recently passed in the Public Safety Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives gets enacted, everyone convicted of repeat driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI) in Minnesota will face an additional punishment: installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device in every vehicle they own or have registered in their name.

According to bill co-sponsor, Representative Kim Norton (DFL, Rochester), one out of every 16 Minnesotans has two DWIs, and one out of every 35 has three or more. Currently, ignition interlock devices are required only for those drivers who have had three or more DWI convictions in the past five years, so this bill, which would require the systems for a second DWI conviction, could possibly impact thousands of the more than 607,000 Minnesotans with at least one DWI.

Why propose these devices?

Ignition interlock systems have been in use for years now, and have been a way for some drivers with multiple DWI convictions to legally maintain their driving privileges while discouraging the temptation to drive under the influence. These systems come at a steep price: installation can run hundreds of dollars, and there are monthly monitoring fees as well. For people whose lives and livelihoods require being able to drive, though, it is worth it to be able to get back behind the wheel.

In addition, a study performed by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that ignition interlock devices were responsible for saving 917 lives that would have been lost in drunk driving-related crashes - a 15 percent reduction - between 2007 and 2013. Study authors claim that the data shows that interlock systems could help lower the rate of alcohol-related fatalities, something that hasn't slowed even as cars get safer and the overall number of deadly crashes drops.

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