ST. PAUL – Some Minnesota legislators want to change the behavior of people who drink and drive, and do it more quickly than under current law.
The House Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved legislation to require a repeat drunken- driving offender to only drive a car with an ignition interlock, a device that prevents a vehicle from starting unless the driver provides a breath sample with no alcohol.
The bill by Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, has further committee stops. A similar bill awaits Senate committee action.
Existing law requires use of the ignition interlock device after three drunken-driving convictions in 10 years. The Kelly bill would impose it after two convictions, but Rep. Kim Norton, D-Rochester, said she prefers the requirement to kick in after an initial conviction.
A driver with two convictions could only drive a car with the device, which requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece. If alcohol is detected, the car could not start.
However, Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, said he fears that the bill "is a step ahead of technology."
Howe said that he understands the interlock does not work well in cold winter weather. An industry spokesman told Howe that the interlock works well, but admitted cold weather does provide some challenges.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus, R-Greenfield, said the bill needs to be aimed at people who can change their behaviors.
"If we can do something earlier in the process, then I would think we can change things," Hertaus said.
Norton said there are two types of drunken drivers. One is the person who does not realize how much they can drink before becoming affected, she said. The other is the alcoholic who cannot be expected to change if an interlock device is required.