Schuitmaker bills aiming to reduce drunk driving offenses, protect motorists pass Senate

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday passed a package of bills sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker that aims to reduce drunk driving offenses.

Senate Bills 175, 176, and 357 would create oversight and accountability for manufacturers and those who service breath alcohol interlock ignition devices (BAIID).

“This comes down to an issue of public safety,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “By increasing oversight of the ignition interlock program, we can ensure more drivers are complying with the law and our families are safe on the roads.”

A BAIID is a type of breathalyzer installed on a vehicle’s ignition panel. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must exhale into the device. The driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured and the ignition signal will be killed if the level is above the minimum threshold. To prevent drinking and driving behind the wheel, the driver is also required to be intermittently tested throughout their drive.

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. More than 8,000 of these devices have been installed in the past three years alone.

“Without a certification process for manufacturers and those who install and service the devices, our current program lacks integrity,” Schuitmaker said.

“Someone you can find on Craigslist may be on the list of installers that a manufacturer uses. These installers, who may not have any technical or mechanical expertise, will meet drivers in a fast food restaurant parking lot to install the device and offer advice on how to get around the system for a few extra bucks.”

Without proper licensure of these installers, there is no way to sanction any individuals guilty of this practice. This legislation would require annual certification from the Michigan Department of State for manufacturers, increase requirements for service centers and establish certification requirements for those who install BAIIDs.

“I have also heard several stories of devices being installed incorrectly,” Schuitmaker said. “The shoddy work resulted in not only an interlock device that didn’t function properly, but also substantial damage to the vehicle.

“Updating the certification process for installation and service of these devices creates a uniform code that would hold those who are guilty of misusing them to be held accountable and keep our drivers safe.”

SBs 175, 176, and 357 were voted out of the Senate and now await consideration before the House of Representatives.