Lawmakers Take Aim at Drunk Driving in Chicago

Federal lawmakers are mulling over whether to provide cash incentives for states that take a tougher stance against drunk drivers.

In an effort to reduce drunk driving accidents in Chicago and throughout the country, federal sponsors of the bill would offer millions of dollars to states that hand out stiff penalties to drunk drivers, even first-time offenders.

Our Chicago car accident attorneys have been following Washington D.C. news reports detailing the proposal to require first-time DUI offenders to install what is called an ignition interlock device.

These devices require the driver to blow into a breath machine, similar to those used by law enforcement during traffic stops. The person’s blood alcohol level is measured through their breath, and if the machine detects alcohol, the car ignition locks up, and the person is not able to drive.

Critics, such as the American Beverage Institute, have argued that the costs render the bill essentially a wash. Many states – Illinois included – have a program that utilizes the breath machines for people who have racked up multiple DUIs. The beverage institute argues that the expansion of the program to include all DUI offenders would cost states more than the money they would be receiving from the federal government.

Critics also say the bill is akin to bribing states that are in desperate need of money into a program that is far too restrictive.

The bill would earmark $500 million annually for grants aimed at improving highway safety. About 5 percent of that (about $25 million) would be doled out to states that accept the new, harsher DUI penalties.

Also in the bill is language that would outline specific punishments for repeat DUI offenders. The way the law is written now, judges have the right to insist a repeat DUI offender install the breath machine for a year, while allowing the offender to drive to school or work or to an alcohol treatment program. Or, the judge has the option to revoke the person’s license for a year. The new law would be very specific about the conditions under which an offender could drive.

In Illinois, a program implementing use of breath machines for repeat DUI offenders has been in place since 1994. It’s called the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) Program. People seeking a restrictive driver’s license after getting multiple DUIs are often required to have the device installed in their vehicle. The machine tests the driver’s blood alcohol level before the vehicle can be started, and also at various times while the person is driving.

It costs about $360, and usually must be used for about a year.

According to the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the average DUI offender drives drunk about 80 times before they are caught. As a result of their actions, more than 10,000 people die annually in the U.S. due to drunk driving crashes.

Suspending a person’s license often isn’t enough to deter drunk drivers. MADD additionally reported that anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of drunk drivers whose license have been suspended continue to flaunt the risk of arrest by continuing to get behind the wheel.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving car accident, the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

House transportation bill expected to go after drunken driving, By Pete Kasperowicz , The Hill

Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) Program, CyberDrive Illinois

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