Byline: The Associated Press
SANTA FE Some convicted drunken drivers could have to blow into breath-testing devices in order to start their engines, if a bill passed by the House becomes law.
The House voted overwhelmingly Friday to allow judges to order repeat DWI offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles as a condition of probation.
The device immobilizes the vehicle if it detects alcohol use on the part of the driver blowing into it.
The House rejected an attempt by Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, to broaden the bill to make the devices mandatory for all offenders, including those convicted for the first time.
"Take it from an old alcoholic who used to drive drunk a lot . . . what we need is severe dealing with drunken driving," said Coll, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for years.
"Drunk drivers are usually people with a drinking problem. They're not casual drinkers," he said.
Opponents of Coll's amendment said it was too broad, unworkable, and punitive. The manufacturers of the devices wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand, they said.
And making it mandatory would tread on the discretion of judges, they objected.
The amendment was rejected on a voice vote.
The state's Traffic Safety Bureau would be in charge of adopting rules for the ignition interlock program, under the legislation.
Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Patsy Trujillo Knauer, D-Santa Fe, said it would serve a dual purpose: keep drinking drivers off the road, but allow convicted offenders to drive themselves to work.
The bill went to the Senate on a vote of 67-1.