Scottsdale couple market DUI detector - East Valley Tribune: News

Scottsdale couple market DUI detector

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Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2008 10:52 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A Scottsdale couple hopes people who have not been caught drinking and driving will opt to install a device in their cars to make sure they never do.

Kathy and David Webster formed a new company, NeverDie, to sell ignition interlock devices, which prevent a car from starting if the driver can't blow an alcohol-free breath into the detector.

Ignition interlocks are mandatory for those convicted of drunken driving in Arizona, even first-time offenders, since tougher DUI laws went into effect in September.

But Kathy Webster, who has one installed in her own vehicle, said she's hoping to stop drunken driving before it happens even the first time.

The devices are pricey - NeverDie charges nearly $900 plus installation plus $30 a month for monitoring.

But Webster said she thinks that's cheap compared with the potential cost in lives, property and court costs of a DUI.

"You can lose everything," she said.

Webster, who said she was a substitute schoolteacher before launching NeverDie a month ago, said she hasn't sold a voluntary system yet.

But her provider has.

NeverDie won't actually install or monitor the systems, Webster said.

The company uses Safe Harbor, a privately owned Scottsdale-based company that installs and monitors ignition interlock systems for those who have been convicted of a DUI and have a court-mandated requirement for the device.

Safe Harbor has actually provided voluntary systems, although the company doesn't actively pitch the products to those who haven't been told by the courts to install them, said Rodney Thomas, managing partner of Safe Harbor.

The company has installed a few ignition interlocks at the request of parents who want their teens monitored for a while, and, in some cases, convicted DUI offenders who have decided to keep the devices in place even after the mandatory one year of monitoring, Thomas said. He offers a reduced rate for those who just want to extend their rental contracts.

But Thomas said voluntary device installations are a small segment of Safe Harbor's business.

And their value as a deterrent is controversial.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the ignition interlock systems for those convicted of an offense and is pushing for all states to require them for first-time offenders, said Ericka Espino, executive director of MADD's Arizona operation.

"It's a wonderful device. MADD is adamant about making it mandatory for first-time offenders," she said.

"They've broken the public's trust."

Espino said New Mexico, the first state to make ignition interlocks mandatory for first-timers, found a significant decrease in injuries and fatalities caused by drunken drivers after the law was passed. But the organization does not support voluntary installations, she said.

Espino said it sends the wrong message, especially if the target is a teen. Putting an interlock device on a teen's car insinuates it's OK to drink, just not to get behind the wheel, she said.

"MADD has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. We'd like parents to instill that message. Alcohol is the No. 1 illicit drug for kids under 18," she said.

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