$7million DUI tests little used

State has avoided big legal challenges with slow rollout

Sunday, February 7, 2010 3:28 AM
By James Nash
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

In the nine months since state officials unveiled a new device hailed as a potent new weapon against drunken driving, the equipment has been used rarely and only in a few rural and suburban pockets of Ohio.

A federal grant provided $7 million to buy 710 portable breath testers in December 2008 despite warnings from attorneys, local judges and some scientists that the machines were unreliable and vulnerable to legal challenges.

The Intoxilyzer 8000 made its debut in Clermont County in May. Since then, the instrument has been used just 1,116 times, in five counties that, combined, have only 3 percent of Ohio's population. Officials could not say how many drunken-driving convictions have resulted from the use of the instrument.

Priced at about $9,000 each, the Intoxilyzer 8000 is supposed to be a big step forward in efforts by police to take drunken drivers off the road. Old breath testers require police to transport suspects back to a station to blow into a machine for a reading. The Intoxilyzer travels in police cars and can be used in the field. That allows officers to test a large number of suspects much more quickly than before.

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