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New Oklahoma DUI Program Lets Offenders Choose Interlock Device or License Revocation

Matt Trotter

The days of automatic driver license revocations for drunk driving in Oklahoma are over.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has implemented a new drunk driving program created by state law. The Impaired Driver Accountability Program allows DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device rather than have their license automatically revoked by DPS.

"Not all impaired drivers are the same, even though under our old systems we were treating them all the same," said DPS Assistant General Counsel Kevin Behrens.

Behrens said information from the interlock devices can help identify offenders who made a once-in-a-lifetime mistake, those who sometimes struggle with alcohol abuse or "hard core" drunk drivers.

Time requirements range from six months for first offenses to three years for a third offense within 10 years. DPS can take additional steps for violations while the interlock is installed, up to revoking someone’s license.

"From a strictly public safety standpoint, I would suggest that it is safer to have someone with an ignition interlock in their vehicle as opposed to simply revoking someone and telling them they can’t drive, because statistically, they are going to drive," Behrens said.

According to DPS figures, interlock devices prevented 50,000 improper vehicle starts from 2011 to 2016.

The program only affects DPS administrative hearings to revoke driver licenses that used to be triggered by a DUI offense.

"The criminal case has not changed at all. This doesn’t change anything on the criminal case. The only thing it changes is the departmental response," Behrens said.

DUI offenders who had their licenses revoked prior to Nov. 1 are not eligible for the program.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.