US States Look at Drunk Driving Law Reform
Drunk driving is the cause of many accidents in the US, and indeed around the world. Many see it as a despicable crime, and efforts to reduce its occurrence are everywhere. Even alcohol manufacturers are playing their part. For example, Budweiser aired an anti-drink driving ad during the Super Bowl. In the US, several states are attempting to tighten the laws. Maryland and New Jersey are just two of the states with campaigns to strengthen the laws on the books. Many people think there need to be tougher consequences for anyone convicted of a DUI.
In Maryland, legislators have been fighting to push through a bill nicknamed Noah’s Law. It’s named after a Montgomery County police officer, Noah Leotta, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver. The bill would mean that convicted drunk drivers must have ignition interlock devices fitted. These devices mean that the driver has to pass a breathalyzer before they are able to start their car. While these are already used in Maryland, they are only given to repeat offenders or excessively drunk drivers.
On Sunday 10th April 2016, supporters of the bill became worried. At the last minute, the House added a punitive damages clause to the bill. It is intended to increase penalties for death or injuries from drunk driving. It was receiving little support, making proponents of the bill worried that it wouldn’t pass. Some believe that the bill has been changed due to pressure from the liquor lobby.
In New Jersey, many believe that the drunk driving laws aren’t effective. The state has strict consequences for DUI convictions, including fines and license suspensions. However, these methods are seen as ineffective by many people. People often don’t ever pay their fines or get their licenses back. It is expensive to have a valid driver’s license returned. Soo many drivers simply drive on a suspended license instead. As in Maryland, there are calls for New Jersey to use ignition interlock devices. However, a bill aiming to increase their use last year was vetoed by Governor Christie. The governor thought the bill was too lenient. It would mean first-time offenders could use an interlock device. This would be instead of having their license suspended for a full three months. However, advocacy groups for victims of drunk driving disagree.
Suspending drivers’ licenses doesn’t stop people driving their cars. One of the reasons for this is that people need to drive to get around. Without their vehicle, they may be unable to go to work, take their kids to school, and do other essential daily tasks. The laws allow for some leniency for drug users, but not for drinkers. However, an ignition interlock device allows someone to drive but only if they first pass a breathalyzer. Currently, not even the best DUI lawyer could argue for an ignition interlock device. The state found that more than 40% of drivers who have their license suspended then lose their job.
Although drunk drivers should be punished, they also need help with rehabilitation. For many, the answer lies in ignition interlock devices to improve safety on the roads.