Ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders - abc27 WHTM

Ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders pushed at Capitol

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They are survivors of drunk driving's devastation.

"I am here on behalf of my little sister, Julie Webster, who was killed by a drunk driver," said Laura Rieg, as she held Julia's photo for all to see.

They are plentiful, and they haunted the hallways at the Capitol on Monday.

"A van was coming the opposite direction and hit them head on," said Robert Young, whose son was killed by a drunk driver.

His daughter was injured in the same crash. It happened 24 years ago. The pain is still fresh.

"Everyday there's a trigger point that brings about a memory of my son," Young said.

He opened a binder with several pictures of his children whose lives were taken or shattered by drinking and driving. He wants lawmakers to see the faces and hear his story.

So does Laura, whose sister was killed by a man driving with a suspended license.

"Neither me nor my family even got to say goodbye to my sister," Rieg said. "And that's one of the hardest things to deal with. That her life was cut short and we can never talk to her again."

But these survivors are talking to lawmakers. They're lobbying for Senate Bill 1036. It would require even first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock system installed in their cars.

An ignition interlock is a mini breathalyzer that drivers must blow into before the car will start. It measures blood alcohol levels. Currently in Pennsylvania, interlocks aren't required until a second DUI conviction.

Senator John Rafferty - (R) Berks-Chester-Montgomery - is the bill's sponsor and Chairman of the Transportation Committee.

"This is insurance that an individual getting behind the wheel of a car is sober. Otherwise, the car will not start."

Prominent DUI attorney Gary Lysaght has no problem forcing interlock ignition devices on those properly diagnosed as habitual alcoholics, but he worries SB 1036 doesn't discriminate.

"A person who drinks too much one time and they make a mistake they should be punished for it," Lysaght said. "But to label them an alcoholic is absurd."

Supporters, though, say there are benefits for those DUI offenders, who can avoid a suspended licenses by installing an interlock ignition device.

"It allows [DUI offenders] to drive to work, drive to school, drive to the grocery store wherever they want to go," said JT Griffin, government affairs liaison with Mothers Against Drunk Driving national office in Washington DC which organized Monday's lobbying effort. "They get to keep their life. They get to keep their car. And at same time it protects your family and it protects mine."

According to MADD, 20 other states require ignition interlocks after a first DUI conviction. It also insists a license suspension is not a tough enough penalty. It says between 50 and 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.

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