FOX Carolina reporter Jennifer Phillips tests an in-car breathalyzer. (File/FOX Carolina)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Before Marshall Tutt goes anywhere, he uses a breathalyzer to get his day started.
"I have to blow in it and you'll hear the sound 'beeeeeeeeep' - and you're good to go," Tutt said.
For at least 10 seconds, the process will determine if his car will start or not.
"Look, what I'm doing, please don't go through what I'm doing. It ain't worth it," Tutt said.
The breathalyzer is a new unwanted accessory that was installed in his car.
"I was at the club and just having a ball and I just felt like, 'Hey, I can drive, I'm good to go,'" Tutt said.
But he wasn't, and not long after he got behind the wheel, he was arrested.
"The officer pulled me over and said, 'You were weaving,' I said 'Oh God,'" Tutt said.
He was later convicted of DUI, second offense.
"I could've killed someone or I could've killed myself," Tutt said.
For the next two years whenever he goes anywhere, the breathalyzer is his startup.
"It goes off every 15 or 20 minutes and you're blowing - oh boy," Tutt said.
Car technicians at Rogers Stereo in Spartanburg installed the Lifesaver breathalyzer for him.
"Several states have done this already. It gets a lot of drunk drivers off the road," Dustin Sutton said.
He's the state director with Lifesaver and works with the car technicians on installations. He said he teaches them how the device works so they can show drivers how to use it properly.
"The preset limit is currently .02 in South Carolina, so they do have to blow under that level before the vehicle will actively allow them to start," Sutton said.
He travels with a demo box and showed a FOX Carolina crew how the device works.
First he took a breath, then blew for several seconds. The device then beeped and a reading popped up. A green light showed a pass, which means a car would start.
If the device fails, a red light flashes and the care wouldn't start. Sutton said if after a driver cranks the car, the device will ask for a random test. If the driver fails, a horn automatically goes off and the emergency lights flash.
"What that does is it gives the assurance of whose blowing into that device. So, that way I couldn't have someone blow into it to start it for me and someone else to continue to blow into while they're going down the road," Sutton said.
Now, state lawmakers are pushing bill S.137. It would require first time convicted drunk drivers to have breathalyzers installed in their cars if they blow a .12 or higher, or if they refuse to take a test when they're pulled over.
"In South Carolina it is currently a requirement for repeat offenders. It is not a requirement for the first time offenders," Steve Sumner said. He's a DUI lawyer in Greenville.
"I think the biggest argument against it is that it's somewhat really tough and stiff on first time offenders," Sumner said.
The bill is getting support from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Under the proposed bill, drivers won't have their licenses suspended.
Instead, their punishment is the breathalyzer. The bill states the new system will also be equipped with a camera, and if drivers are caught trying to trick the breathalyzer, they could pay big.
"Those penalties are going to be much more stiff than the current DUS penalties for South Carolina drivers," Sumner said.
Lifesaver representatives said the idea is to save lives on the road and to give drivers like Tutt a chance to drive to work and other places. Tutt said he no longer drinks and his new car accessory changed his life.
"I learned my lesson because the breathalyzer has been a lifesaver, the best thing that's ever happened to me," Tutt said.
The Lifesaver breathalyzer will cost a driver about $70 a month for two years of monitoring. State lawmakers are still working on the bill S.137.
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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