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Jesse Jones follows the money on ignition interlock devices

There are nearly 20,000 people who have an ignition interlock device in Washington.  The device can help keep drunk drivers off the road, but it doesn’t have the same effect on drugged drivers.

Recovering crack addict Kellie Scott said her ignition interlock device is a waste of air, and a bigger waste of money.

That’s because the device that’s supposed to stop repeat drinking and driving won’t prevent Scott or anyone else from drugging and driving.

“A heroin user, a pill user, a marijuana user, a methamphetamine user…  You can drive around with the ignition interlock system in your car and it will not affect it,” Scott said.

In a recent Washington Traffic Safety Commission study, fatal accident drivers using one drug that wasn’t alcohol or pot more than doubled from 2012 to 2016.  The number of drivers in fatal crashes on pot only have almost quadrupled from 2011 to 2016.

Shelly Baldwin, Legislative Manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission said it doesn’t matter what caused the arrest.  The best answer right now is the ignition interlock device or IID.

Baldwin said it’s because of a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a 26% drop in recidivism for all first time DUI offenders who have an IID installed.

“It’s not ok for them to drive impaired under any substance, but I can protect the safety of the public a little bit by ensuring that the substance isn’t being amplified by alcohol,” Baldwin explained.

Kellie Scott agrees with Baldwin, to a certain point.

“I agree with that, but I think that drug addicts or somebody that’s using needs to be held accountable in some other way than in an ignition interlock in their car,” Scott said.

Scott said the $120 a month she spends on the interlock device would be better spent elsewhere, like urinalysis testing.

“I would rather go to urinalysis on a daily basis or have them randomly urinalysis me than to drive around with that in my car,” Scott said.

Attorney Nate Webb, who has defended more than one thousand accused DUI drivers said, in his experience, recidivism rates among pot users is low, and said he has another answer.

“The fix for marijuana and prescription drug ones, I think the treatment alone, especially for first time offenders, is sufficient,” Webb said.

And that’s what’s happening in Kent.  Chief Prosecuting Attorney Tami Perdue said its DUI court provides treatment, drug testing and support group meetings for three time offenders.

Perdue said the program’s annual funding, nearly $140,000, comes primarily from the city.  Perdue adds that amount is cheaper than jailing participants.

“A new approach is to literally wrap around services around them and keep them, and closely monitor them until we can let them go,” Perdue explained.

Kellie Scott believes she’ll never spend another day in court.  Scott graduated from college, and has a steady job and has found accountability through her support system and not from a machine.

“All my fines are paid,” Scott said.  “I have the support of my family and I have the support of my work. That’s what holds me accountable.  Not the fact that I have ignition interlock in my car, because I’d pass every time anyways.”

One of the things Shelly Baldwin from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission wants is DUI court for all offenders.  Studies show DUI courts can reduce recidivism by 13%.

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