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New law puts technology to use in DUI fight
What is the bottom line when it comes to drunk driving laws?
Is it to punish drunk drivers, or get them off the road before they kill themselves and other, innocent people?
In the last decades, the pendulum has swung from what was probably too permissive an attitude, to what some saw as unrealistic over-reaction fueled by popular opinion.
The Legislature's rewrite of driving-under-the-influence laws seems to have pulled the pendulum closer to center, staying tough while taking advantage of technologies that could help achieve the proper goals of such laws.
Lawmakers gave a 46-0 approval to LB667 Tuesday and sent it to Gov. Dave Heineman, who is expected to sign it.
The bill will force people convicted of first and second DUI offenses to have devices installed on their vehicles which will prevent cars from starting if they are drunk.
In a carrot-and-stick approach, people arrested for driving under the influence would be able to have interlock devices installed immediately to allow them to drive to work and other important appointments without losing their licenses temporarily. The new law calls for 15-day temporary licenses for those arrested for DUI, instead of the 30-day license now issued.
If convicted, they will get credit for the time they voluntarily used the interlock devices.
Drivers who refuse a breath-alcohol test will get a 90-day suspension and one-year revocation of their license when convected, but could earn a 45-day suspension, rather than a 60-day suspension for second-offense DUI or above, if they waive the right to an administrative license revocation hearing and apply for an interlock device.
Other portions of the bill make it a crime to drive while intoxicated with children in the vehicle, buy alcohol for minors later involved in fatal accidents, drive with as little as .02 percent blood-alcohol content for a repeat drunken driver (the legal limit is .08).
Addressing the drunk-driving issue is a balancing act between protecting public safety and prodding those with drinking problems to act responsibly while continuing to be productive members of society.
Let's hope the new law is effective in helping law enforcement and the legal system to strike that balance.