New ignition interlock bill aims to reduce DUI arrests

New ignition interlock bill aims to reduce DUI arrests, fatalities

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The ignition interlock device physically takes away the choice to drink and drive. The driver must blow into the device and if there is no alcohol present than they will be allowed to start the vehicle The ignition interlock device physically takes away the choice to drink and drive. The driver must blow into the device and if there is no alcohol present than they will be allowed to start the vehicle
"It's proven that these reduce recidivism," said Julie Strike, a coordinator for MADD. "It's proven that these reduce recidivism," said Julie Strike, a coordinator for MADD.
Darleen Addis' daughter and son-in-law were killed in 2006 when Larry Williamson crashed his truck into the young couple's motorcycle. Williamson already had three DUI convictions. Darleen Addis' daughter and son-in-law were killed in 2006 when Larry Williamson crashed his truck into the young couple's motorcycle. Williamson already had three DUI convictions.
"They're not foolproof," admits Jamie Carter, an assistant district attorney in Knox County. "They're not foolproof," admits Jamie Carter, an assistant district attorney in Knox County.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tennessee ranks 11th in the nation for drunk driving fatalities. The state has an increasing problem when it comes to repeat offenders. 

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, there were 28,735 DUI arrests last year.

The organization Mothers' Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says one third of those were repeat offenders.

So what's being done to stop them?  

A new bill awaits Gov. Bill Haslam's signature that strengthens the ignition interlock law, now requiring it for first time offenders and lowering the intoxication rate from .15 to .08. 

It's a change state lawmakers say could result in up to 10,000 more drivers with this safe guard on their vehicle.

The ignition interlock device physically takes away the choice to drink and drive. The driver must blow into the device and if there is no alcohol present than they will be allowed to start the vehicle. The driver must do a series of random retests throughout their drive.

The new law now requires a camera attachment to ensure the person taking the test is the person that is supposed to take it.

It's a device supporters say saves lives.

Darleen Addis' daughter and son-in-law were killed by a drunk driver in 2006.

"The crash day is a day I just don't function on anymore. They were just married six and a half weeks," remembers Addis, a victim of a repeat DUI offender.

Larry Williamson crashed his truck into the young couple's motorcycle. Williamson already had three DUI convictions.

"I couldn't figure out why he wasn't in jail," Addis says, shaking her head six years after that day.

Williamson got behind the wheel that night high on painkillers, something an ignition interlock device wouldn't have stopped. Still, the question is, what if he had been stopped after his first DUI?

"I think you need to be harsher on first offense. Then maybe you wont get a second offense," said Julie Strike, a coordinator for MADD. "You can teach them, have them change their ways, then maybe you wont have so many repeat offenders. It's proven that these reduce recidivism."

According to MADD, the installation of this device reduces the rate of repeat offending by more than 60 percent. With the new law now requiring first time offenders to install the device, the hope is the re-arrest rate will continue to drop.

"In order to get your car started in the morning you have do that, every 15 minutes, you have to retest. So the inconvenience factor I hope is a daily reminder of I don't want to have to do this," said Jamie Carter, an assistant district attorney in Knox County.

The ignition interlock device is one of the tools the Knox County District Attorney's Office uses. In Tennessee, there have been 7,670 ignition interlocks ordered since 2011. That's only about a quarter of the number of people convicted of DUIs.

"They're not foolproof," Carter admits.

According to the Department of Safety, there is not reliable date to know whether any of those 7,670 have offended repeatedly.

Offenders are required to pay for these devices themselves. The cost comes out to around $1,000 a year. Offenders have them for between six months to a year.

But critics say that cost might make some offenders give up their license instead of paying for the device. Many will still drive, even without their license.

Supporters say the reduction of drunk driving crashes shows these devices are helping.

"It's a no-brainer to associate the ignition interlock with the dropping fatalities," Strikke said.

Addis is less convinced.

"Is it really going to help? I don't know. I really don't know," Addis says, looking over the pictures and memories of her daughter.

But she says something must be done, and this at least a step in the right direction.

"It's one step. But its not the whole package, and they need the whole package," she said..

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