State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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New DUI law increases penalties on first-time offenders

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 25, 2017 5:42 AM
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Senator John Rafferty speaks at a press conference announcing the new law, accompanied by the parents of several young people killed by drunk drivers. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

 

(Harrisburg) -- A new law going into effect Friday aims to cut down on drunk driving.

It requires first-time offenders to have breathalyzers installed in their cars--something 48 other states already do.

Car breathalyzers--officially called Ignition Interlock Systems--require drivers to blow into a device to start their vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, the car won't start, and it'll also register the attempt.

The systems have been proven to substantially cut down on drunk driving. But under previous Pennsylvania laws, only repeat offenders have been required to install them.

State Senator Scott Martin, a Lancaster County Republican and proponent of stronger impaired driving laws, said that policy was badly out of date.

"It's very symbolic of where Pennsylvania is lagging in terms of how it looks at repeat offenders and DUI laws in general," he said at a press conference. "Something's not getting through, and I believe that this place is part of the problem."

The new law, Act 33 of 2016, stipulates that any driver who's pulled over with a blood alcohol level of .10, or who refuses to be tested for alcohol, has to install an Ignition Interlock System in their car.

Offenders must pay for the devices, which cost between $900 and $1,300 a year. The law also establishes a new class of license that denotes a driver's status as a DUI offender.

Berks County Senator John Rafferty, a Republican who sponsored the measure, said this is just one part of a larger effort to crack down in drunk drivers.

"We've been coddling them for too long," he said. "It's time to recognize that they have problems. It's time to recognize that they're a danger on the highway to other individuals--innocent individuals--and to themselves."

Rafferty and Martin also want to instate mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers, and harsher penalties for deadly DUI accidents. 

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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