Funding has unexpectedly dried up for a program to help low-income DUI offenders in Washington state afford ignition interlock devices, and that could put some of them back on the roads without those devices.
The device requires a driver to blow into a straw and prove they are not impaired before driving. It allows DUI offenders to keep their vehicles, is a more popular alternative to a suspended license, and has been known to significantly cut down on drivers re-offending.
With more than 2,000 drivers losing the state subsidy to pay for the devices, many may be forced to take the suspended license option. That will give them the ability to drive impaired without any safeguards. The subsidy comes from fees paid by DUI offenders purchasing an ignition interlock device.
"We are very concerned about this," said Corrie Moore with Autosafe, a company that works with offenders to install the devices. "The interlock allows them to drive safely and responsibly and the rest of us don't need to worry about safety on the roadway."
It typically costs around $150-per-month for an offender to maintain the devices for the standard two-year sentence. The state subsidy from the Ignition Interlock Revolving Account provides offenders with around $80-per-month.
State Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said the money for the program was somehow funneled into a separate account for prison inmate treatment programs during the last budget. Clibborn vows to restore the funding so low-income offenders don't feel a difference. How that will happen is still not known.