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Drunken drivers have new option Jan. 1

The installation of more interlock devices in vehicles is what one local police officer sees happening with a law that takes effect New Year’s Day.

Part of a new law, passed by the Nebraska Legislature, allows motorists picked up for driving under the influence to have an administrative license revocation hearing with department of motor vehicle officials or request the installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.

Gothenburg police sergeant Matt Langley said time will tell whether or not the new law will make Nebraskans think twice about drinking and driving.

“It’s unfortunate that not a lot of people in the area have done it on their own because I think it’s a good idea,”

State officials describe the interlock device as an instrument installed in a vehicle’s dashboard that monitors breath alcohol concentration.

Drivers are required to blow into a sensor to prove a breath-alcohol concentration registering less than .03 before the vehicle will start.

Motorists arrested for first- and second-offense DUI have incentives for applying to use the device instead of an administrative license revocation hearing.

By installing the device, proponents of the measure say offenders can continue driving to work, school, probation hearings and other specified locations.

Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles officials said research shows that use of ignition interlock devices reduces repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 64 percent.

After a New Mexico law in 2002 that required use of the devices, officials said preliminary results of a study showed that the devices dropped alcohol-related injury crashes by approximately 32 percent.

In 2010, 53 Nebraskans died in alcohol-related crashes and another 790 were injured.

Dawson County sheriff Gary Reiber said if the new law helps Nebraska statistics mirror those of New Mexico’s, he supports it.

On another level, however, Reiber said he doesn’t know if the legislation is a way to avoid prosecuting DUI offenders.

“Are we saying that it’s okay for alcoholics to drive cars as long as they sign up for the device?” he asked.

DUI offenders arrested as of Jan. 1, 2012, and later may be eligible to apply for an interlock device and should contact the DMV at 402-471-3985. More information can be found at www.ClickDMV.ne.gov.

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