Schuitmaker bills aiming to reduce drunk driving offenses, protect motorists head to governor’s desk

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation aimed at reducing drunk driving offenses by creating oversight and accountability for manufacturers and those who service breath alcohol interlock ignition devices (BAIID).

A BAIID is a type of breathalyzer installed on a vehicle’s ignition panel that the driver must blow into in order to start the vehicle. The driver’s blood alcohol content is measured and the ignition signal will be killed if the level is above the minimum threshold. In order to ensure the operator stays sober, tests are also administered throughout the drive.

“Our current laws lack a clear framework for the Michigan Department of State to resolve problems arising from manufacturer compliance, device malfunction, or complaints from motorists,” said State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Creating a uniform code that allows the department to hold those who are guilty of misusing the devices accountable will increase the integrity and effectiveness of the program.”

Certain court mandates may require a driver to have a BAIID installed on their vehicle as a condition of keeping driving privileges after conviction of various alcohol-related crimes. However, there is currently limited oversight for those who install or manufacture these devices. Additionally, there is no way to sanction any individuals guilty of improperly using BAIIDs.

Senate Bills 176 and 357, sponsored by Schuitmaker, would ensure that any service to the device must be done by a licensed auto repair facility, and an annual certification process through the Michigan Department of State would increase accountability for those manufacturing, installing and servicing these devices.

“I have heard several stories regarding the misuse of these devices,” Schuitmaker said. “An installation performed by someone with little or no experience often results in an interlock device that doesn’t function properly and can even cause damage to the vehicle. There have even been cases of installers offering advice on how to get around the system for an additional fee.

“This is not only an issue of increasing the effectiveness of the program, but keeping our roadways and communities safe.”

SBs 176, and 357 were recently approved by the Michigan House of Representatives and concurred by the Senate Thursday morning. The bills will now go to Gov. Snyder for consideration.