Drunk driving deaths in Pennsylvania lead to stricter penalties
Many people die in Pittsburgh every year in drunk driving accidents. Last year, over 48,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania. Due to a recent series of fatal accidents involving drunk drivers, state legislators have decided to crack down on drunk driving statewide. One of the first major changes may be to require even first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their cars. These devices will require DUI offenders to take a breath test every time they start their car. The device will check the driver’s blood alcohol concentration before allowing the car to start. Currently, Pennsylvania requires these devices after a second conviction. If this law passes, Pennsylvania will become one of 31 states to require the device after the first conviction.
Those involved in fatal car accidents may also be facing more serious consequences than ever before. State Senator John Rafferty has authorized a separate law specifically geared toward repeat DUI offenders who have caused a fatal accident. This law implements a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for those drivers.
These more severe penalties have been supported by politicians and citizens all over the state. In Pennsylvania, DUI offenders paid a total of $3.6 million in ignition interlock fees last year. That number could top $30 million a year if the new law is implemented.
There are also issues with the effectiveness of these devices. Many drivers convicted of DUIs can easily find ways to avoid the ignition interlock system by using another vehicle. Overall, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. With 364 lives lost in drunk driving accidents in Pennsylvania last year, lawmakers seem to want to toughen the laws before the legislative session ends.
Source: The Meadville Tribune, “Lawmakers push to increase DUI penalties,” John Finnerty, Sep. 13, 2014