COLUMBIA — A bill to expand a state program that requires drunken-driving offenders to install breathalyzers in their vehicles advanced to the Senate on Tuesday.
First offenders who have a blood-alcohol content of 0.12 percent or higher would be required to install a breathalyzer device connected to their vehicles ignition systems if the bill becomes law, said state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.
The device prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has a certain blood-alcohol level.
The state does not now require first offenders to install the ignition-interlock device, Hutto said. Second and third offenders already are required to install the device, following the suspension of their licenses, as a condition of driving again. The bill would eliminate the suspension period for second and third offenders and require them to install the device immediately.
Supporters see the changes as giving offenders a way to drive legally, helping them get to work, Hutto said. Now, some drivers with suspended licenses drive anyway.
State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, who expressed concern about forcing some first-time offenders to use the device, asked a minority report be placed on the bill, which could make it more difficult to pass, said Judiciary chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, unless the Senate can reach a compromise.