It's a fact that many of the people who lose their license due to a DUI conviction keep driving anyway. Now, a new program is giving convicted drunk drivers a chance to get on the road again.
Tom, who asked we not use his last name, is one of those drivers. Every time he gets behind the wheel, he has to blow into his ignition because a device Interlock -- which is basically a breathalyzer that's been hard wired to his car's ignition -- won't start until he does.
When the device is installed, the vehicle won't start if the sensor detects even a .02 level of alcohol on a driver's breath. That's one fourth the legal limit.
Once a driver is on the road, he or she still has to prove he's not drinking by blowing into the device while driving. If a person fails the test on the road, it won't stop the car while its moving; however, an "F" gets recorded in a database which is reviewed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. An infraction can either get the driver kicked off the program or add to their time in it.
"It's made me be a cleaner person," said Tom. "It makes me not drink and drive."
A new law paved the way for Interlock to roll out statewide last July. Anyone -- even a person with multiple DUI convictions -- can apply.
To qualify, the offender first pays a $680 license reinstatement fee. They also have to provide proof of insurance and sign a contract with a state-approved Interlock company.
It costs another hundred dollars or so to have the unit installed in your car. Then, there's a monthly monitoring fee which can run as much as $135. Depending on the drunken driving record, participants might be on the program for a few months or even years.
Minnesota averages nearly 30,000 drunken driving arrests each year. Tens of thousands of people who lost their licenses could legally drive again if they signed up for the Interlock program, but only about 1,000 have so far.
"I don't think the word is out there," said Jane Landwehr, of the state-run Driver Compliance Program. . "As the word gets out, more and more people will opt to participate."
There could be another factor affecting participation. The DMV requires special documents from your insurance company before it will give you the green light to join the program. That means drivers essentially have to admit their driving history.
Of those thousand drivers using Interlock, the state says few have gotten into trouble. There have been 158 violations to date.
For Tom, the program has done more than allow him to drive again; it's forced him to modify his behavior by giving up alcohol altogether. He told FOX 9 News he's been sober for a year and seven months.
Now, Tom doesn't miss those days of having to take a taxi, hire a driver, or ride his bike to go where ever he needed to go.
"I pretty much tried everything in my life, you know," Tom said "I'm going to try being sober for once. It's working out pretty dang good."
Arrested for DWI? Learn more about ignition interlock at MinnesotaIgnitionInterlock.org