Editorial

New law puts technology to use in DUI fight

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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.

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  • I am curious about the device. Is it programmed to recognize only the person that is assigned to it's "breath". Does it read and or take note of some type of genetic code in the water vapor from the lungs? Can the device be fooled by using compressed air? I know someone that would actually find a sober person and pay them to blow in the device so they could drive home.

    How much does the device cost, and would the "criminal" be charged for the device, as well as the installation? How long will they use the device? Will the length of term be tiered?

    -- Posted by cplcac on Sat, May 28, 2011, at 7:06 AM
  • As far as I know, the devices are not yet capable of telling who's blowing into it though they are working on it so yes a sober person can blow into it. Not sure on compressed air, haven't heard that one yet. Most states that requires theses have more penalties for those that try to circumvent them.

    I'm only somewhat familiar with Illinios' law and I believe they require the offender to pay for the device and installation.

    The device also does not protect if the drunk driver hops into someone elses car or a rental

    -- Posted by npwinder on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 12:17 AM
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