TOPEKA – First time drunken drivers would not need to have ignition interlock devices installed on their cars under a measure approved Monday by the House.
Senate Bill 268 would require those convicted of drunken driving a second time face a license suspension for a year. After 45 days, they would be able to drive to limited places such as work or treatment with an ignition interlock device on their car. After the year was up, the drivers could drive anywhere, but would have to keep the ignition interlock device on their car for another year.
The bill, a third-try compromise worked out by a panel of lawmakers from both chambers, passed 107-11 and now goes to the Senate.
Some lawmakers roundly criticized the agreement. The House's initial proposal would have required all drivers convicted of first time DUIs drive with ignition interlock devices for a year.
The Senate wanted to wait until next session to change the state's drunken driving laws. Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park chairs the Kansas DUI commission, which has undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s DUI laws and is expected to propose a package of changes next year. He asked for the delay instead of tacking DUI legislation piecemeal.
"It greatly troubles me that this is the best agreement we could get," said Rep. Arlen Sieigfreid, R-Olathe. "We are still leaving our family and our children on the highways of Kansas with no protection from people who have been convicted of a DUI."
During debate on other DUI bills, Senators had worried that requiring interlock devices for first time offenders would create backlogs and access problems in rural areas where there are not as many companies to install the devices.
Currently, interlock devices are required for drivers who are convicted of a second drunken-driving offense, who refuse a Breathalyzer test or who are caught with a 0.15 blood alcohol level — almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.
The interlock devices won’t allow the car to start if the driver’s blood alcohol level is half the legal limit or greater. The driver’s levels also are randomly tested while the car is moving. The devices cost $50 to $70 for installation and $65 to $75 a month in fees after that.