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Using DUI device essential

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To wage a successful war against drunken drivers, the state must use every resource available. Lawmakers, judges and society at large must unite to send the message that this crime is a menace and total unacceptable.

Unfortunately, a tool that could help send that message — an alcohol ignition-interlock device — is barely being used. The device won't let a car start unless the driver's breath is alcohol-free.

That this tool is not being properly used is not only appalling, it borders on negligence.

Lawmakers in last winter's legislative session passed a measure requiring ignition-interlock devices for second offenses and for drivers with unusually high levels of alcohol in their blood. But because of communications breakdowns and what has to be viewed as a lack of commitment, the legislation has been rendered virtually worthless.

What lawmakers are finding out is that the court has no automated records to track the blood alcohol level of offenders, which is a primary factor in sentencing under the interlock law.

The court system doesn't even know how many offenders should have been sentenced under the interlock law, according to the assistant court administrator for the state's Administrative Office of the Courts.

However, based on an April report by a subcommittee of the Governor's Council on Driving Under the Influence, there has been almost a total breakdown in enforcing the law. The report found that judges should order ignition-interlock equipment for more than 165 offenders each month. That would equal 3,960 of the devices over a two-year period. The actual number of devices installed, however, is just 119, or about 3 percent of the 3,960 total.

But prosecutors for Salt Lake City say there is anecdotal evidence that shows judges are ordering interlocks when appropriate.

Something clearly is amiss. There has to be some way to determine how efficient — or inefficient — the interlock ignition program is.

House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, says he will have the courts audited if he doesn't get some answers.

Getting accurate information is a necessity. Perhaps an audit would be prudent.