Washington, D.C.- Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed two new impaired driving laws Wednesday aimed at reducing drunk driving in the metro area adding to tougher penalties passed last summer.
One of the bills could require first offenders to have ignition interlock devices—installed on their vehicles after their first DUI conviction. Previously, a judge could order a convicted offender to install these devices only after their second DUI conviction. Approximately, 1,800 individuals in D.C. have been convicted of a first-time DUI offense and could now be forced to install the devices on an annual basis, according to the Examiner.
Ignition interlocks are breathalyzers which are installed in vehicle and prevents the driver from starting it if their blood alcohol level is above a specified limit, which is generally .02.
“Clearly, I think we’d all agree that we have to do everything that’s possible to prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel,” the Mayor said, “and do everything possible to identify and arrest and prosecute them if they do drive and endanger the lives of others.”
Currently there are 17 states that require impaired drivers to install these devices on their vehicle for a single DUI.
Adding these devises come at an additional cost to the impaired driver. In addition to court fines, fees and penalties, first offenders must pay to have the devices installed along with a monthly fee to recalibrate the machine of accuracy.
This new law follows in the heels of recommendations for the National Traffic Safety Board which previously recommended that law enforcement agencies across the country make ignition interlock devices a requirement for first-time DUI offenders.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,000 people are killed in traffic collisions each year. Of those, 32 percent are caused by impaired drivers. Half of convicted drunk driver will repeat the offense therefore the NTSB believes ignition interlocks would be a good deterrent and now Washington D.C. has echoed that belief.
The proposal from the NTSB had been met with criticism, primarily from the America Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 restaurants, on the basis that it would adversely affect the sale of beverages.
In addition to requiring the interlock devices, the new impaired driving legislation now requires tougher penalties and higher fines for people caught driving under the influence with children in their vehicles. According to the Examiner, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death from children ages 3 to 14.
Speaking at press conference which included Mayor Gray and top law enforcement officials at the city morgue, Attorney General Irvin Nathan said, “We won’t tolerate irresponsible adults who put their children’s lives at risk driving impaired.”
Assistant Chief of Police, Peter Newsham added, “There is nothing more heartbreaking for a police officer then to respond to the scene of a crash and where there is a child, an innocent child victim.”
In July of last year, lawmakers changed the legal limit for drivers. The previous limit was .08, the standard used in the majority of states, but the legal limit was changed to .04. They also increased the fines for drunken drivers of taxis and other for-hire drivers.
Impaired driving, though still a problem, has been reduced significantly over the past few decades, which can be attributed to tougher laws and enhanced enforcement.