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Letter: Flaws in use of interlocks

An ignition interlock device, which requires convicted drunken

An ignition interlock device, which requires convicted drunken drivers to blow into it to detect their alcohol levels. Credit: News 12 Long Island

"DWI orders not being enforced" [News, Oct. 9] makes only passing reference to why ignition interlock rates are so low. Leandra's Law allows convicted drunken drivers to effectively sit on the sidelines and wait out the mandatory yearlong interlock period by claiming they "do not own or operate" a motor vehicle.

In many instances, offenders simply transfer ownership to a family member, and that same car will sit in the same driveway -- just one bad decision away from the offender getting in and driving without an interlock, and very likely without a license. All too frequently, the driver is again impaired by alcohol.

Ignition interlock devices require drivers to blow into the device before the vehicle can be started, to ensure the person's blood-alcohol content is below 0.08 percent. Nassau County was the first jurisdiction in the state and, to my knowledge, in the country, to transition to ignition interlock devices with GPS tracking and 911 emergency response capability. In effect, vehicles with the interlocks can detect whether the operator is driving impaired, automatically contact Nassau police and provide the vehicle's location.

That's the good news, along with the fact that Nassau County has several hundred of these devices in the field at any time. The bad news remains that too many offenders legally never install the devices at all.

John D. Fowle, Mineola

Editor's note: The writer is the director of the Nassau County Probation Department.


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