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Smart Start alcohol monitoring company opens branch in Putnam County

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
BEN CALWELL | Putnam Review
Smart Start Operations Manager Matthew Richards blows into a Smart Start interlock device, which is designed to keep alcohol-impaired drivers off the road. The device analyzes a person’s breath to detect alcohol levels and will prevent a vehicle from starting if the levels are above a certain point. Smart Start opened a Teays Valley location at 3990 Teays Valley Road.
Smart Start held an open house at its new Putnam County location, 3990 Teays Valley Road. From left: Matthew Richards, Smart Start operations manager; Putnam County Sheriff Steve Deweese and Kathleen Riley, Smart Start’s judicial liaison for West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Matthew Richards holds one of Smart Start’s interlock devices, which are installed in the vehicles of those arrested for DUI. The device disables the vehicle if the driver’s breath indicates alcohol levels above a pre-set level.

One of the largest providers of ignition interlock devices in the United States has opened a new branch in Teays Valley.

Smart Start, an alcohol monitoring corporation headquartered in Grapevine, Texas, held an open house on Friday, June 30, at 3990 Teays Valley Road. Smart Start sells and installs ignition interlock devices, which prevent vehicles from being started if the drivers are alcohol-impaired.

Smart Start works in cooperation with the Interlock Department of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, said Kathleen Riley, Smart Start’s judicial services liaison in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“We have 13 locations in West Virginia. One thing that’s unique in West Virginia is that all the shops for interlock are corporate shops run by our technicians that are our employees, and we’re all about customer service,” Riley said.

According to a company press release, Smart Start serves two groups of clients:

• Drivers who install the device on their vehicles for court-ordered supervision, license reinstatement or voluntary monitoring as well as persons who are court-ordered to use a portable alcohol monitoring device.

• The judicial system or DMV division that mandates and monitors use of the device on the vehicle or portable monitoring device of a DWI/DUI offender.

When someone has been required to have an interlock device installed on his or her vehicle due to a DUI offense, that person “must give a passing breath sample” or the vehicle will not start.

“We can keep people who have an issue with alcohol from getting behind the wheel of a car and driving drunk on the road,” Riley said.

The client blows a breath sample into the device, which then analyzes it. If the analyzed breath sample is below a pre-set level, it passes and the vehicle will start.

Riley said that as of January 2015, the state mandates that the device must have a camera as part of the system in order to ensure that someone else isn’t trying to use the system for the interlock client.

“We’re now mandatory for a camera. We can identify who is blowing the test,” she said.

Riley said there is one other vendor in West Virginia for interlock devices and that clients can pick which one they want to use.

If those who have been arrested for DUI don’t get an interlock device installed within 30 days, their driver’s licenses will be revoked. The clients must pay for the devices to be installed.

Interlock devices allow the clients to drive while being monitored by the state DMV.

“The whole idea with interlock is changing behaviors,” Riley said.

DUI clients bring their vehicles to Smart Start to have the installations done.

After that, “every 30 to 60 days they have to come in and have a download (of data) done, and that report goes into the Interlock Department (at DMV).”

Matthew Richards, Smart Start’s operations manager for West Virginia, said most interlock installations take two hours or less time, depending on the make and model of the vehicle.

“Hybrids and push-button-start cars take about four hours,” Richards said.

Putnam County Sheriff Steve Deweese said DUI offenders can sometimes avoid jail time by having interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

As a form of alternative sentencing, having interlock devices on DUI offenders’ vehicles will serve as reminders “that they’ve done something wrong and that we make mistakes and this will correct it without serving jail time,” Deweese said.

Linda Melton, supervisor of the state DMV’s Interlock Department, said the main purpose of the department is public safety.

“And to teach the public not to drink and drive. We’re not telling you that you can’t drink; we just don’t want you behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive,” Melton said.

Melton said a driver arrested for DUI must get an interlock device installed depending on his or her blood-alchol content “and how many DUIs they’ve had. If their BAC level is below a .15, then they are not mandatory.”

Repeat offenders must get the devices installed.

For more information about Smart Start, visit www.SmartStartInc.com


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