Drivers in Arizona who are convicted with driving under the influence (DUI) charges for the first time will receive a “slightly gentler” sentence, starting January 1st 2013.

A new state law set to take effect when the New Year comes in will reduce the amount of time that first-time offenders are required to have an ignition-interlock device on their vehicles, from one year to six months.

Interlock devices prevent vehicles from turning on if alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath. Arizona is known as among the toughest states when it comes to DUI laws, as it is one of only 15 that require first-time offenders to have interlock devices.

The length of time that an interlock device is used varies by state, and with the reduction, Arizona joins the ranks of Oregon, New Jersey, and Missouri, which require interlock devices for a period of six months.

The change was proposed early this year by Sen. Linda Gray of Glendale, who said that while she still believes in requiring interlock devices, she thinks that six months is long enough to teach a lesson.

The Arizona Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), however, opposed the change to the law. Since Arizona required first-time offenders to have interlock devices, the number of DUI fatalities has decreased, and MADD Arizona program specialist Kelley Dupps said that they will be monitoring whether the new law will cause an increase in the number of DUI fatalities.

Dupps said: “We definitely feel the interlock law has made a huge difference in the DUI fatalities in Arizona… Interlocks allow offenders to get back on the road and drive safely while the community can rest assured that they are driving safely.”

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