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Sacramento, Calif. – On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 61, adding another 18 months to a four-county ignition interlock pilot program that was set to expire in December.

“MADD thanks the California Legislature and Governor Brown for recognizing the need for this life-saving program in these four counties,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. “I am confident that this pilot program will produce convincing evidence that ignition interlocks reduce drunk driving deaths and should be used by all offenders in California.”

Authored by Senator Jerry Hill, SB 61 extends the pilot program until July 1, 2017, to allow more time to study the effectiveness of the devices, which require a driver to give a breath sample to prove they are not impaired. If the breath sample exceeds the preset limit for blood alcohol concentration, the vehicle will not start.

California began the pilot program in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties in 2010 to study the effectiveness of mandatory ignition interlock use. Statistics currently show the Pilot Program has prevented 158,000 impaired driving incidences. When the law took effect, only 12 states had statewide all-offender interlock laws.  Today, 25 states require ignition interlock use by first-time offenders. Under current law, interlocks are required in these pilot counties for all convicted drunk drivers who choose to drive during a license suspension period. In other counties, interlock use depends on judicial discretion for any convicted drunk driver.

“This year, Texas became the 25th state to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law. That means Texas is now ahead of California in terms of enacting effective legislation to stop drunk drivers from becoming repeat offenders,” said Mary Klotzbach, whose son Matthew, a midshipman at the Naval Academy, was killed by a drunk driver during a visit home to California. “MADD calls on lawmakers to expand the pilot program statewide in 2016, so California becomes the 26th state to enact this life-saving law, so all Californians are afforded the same protection from repeat offenders.”

MADD strongly supports use of ignition interlocks in lieu of license suspension, because studies have shown that 50 to 75 percent of convicted offenders will continue to drive on a suspended license. In addition, ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent when compared with license suspension alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2013, 867 people were killed in crashes caused by a drunk driver in California – 29 percent of all traffic deaths in the state.

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