New DUI law may decrease accident fatalities, senator says
The Oklahoma Senate has passed a law to ensure harsher penalties for individuals caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Erin Swezey Law, which was passed on May 26, requires first-time offenders caught driving under the influence to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car for 18 months, according to the Erin Swezey Act website. On the second offense, the interlock device would remain in the offender’s car for four years, and subsequent offenses require the use of the interlock for five years, according to the Swezey website.
The ignition interlock system prevents the car from operating if a person’s breath alcohol content is more than a preset limit, as measured by a handheld alcohol sensor in the car.
The previous punishment for driving under the influence did not include ignition interlock devices, according to the Oklahoma Department of Motor Vehicles’ website. Former punishments included varying degrees of fines and jail time, according to the DMV website.
Oklahoma needs stricter DUI laws for the sake of victims of drunk driving, Oklahoma State Senator Clark Jolley, the primary author of the bill, said.
“Hundreds of Oklahomans needlessly lose their life every year because someone makes a bad decision to drink and drive,” Jolley said in an email. “By requiring someone who has already been convicted of drunk driving to not legally be able to drive a vehicle without an ignition interlock device, hopefully the numbers of people who die needlessly every year will plummet.”
The law is named for 20-year-old Erin Swezey, an Edmond resident, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009, according to Jolley’s website.
“My own daughter is only a little bit older than Erin would have been,” Gov. Mary Fallin said on Jolley’s website. “My heart goes out to the Swezeys and all Oklahomans who’ve been victims of drunk drivers.”
The new law will decrease the number of repeat offenders in DUI cases, Jolley said.
“Based on results seen in other states that have implemented similar statutes, there should be an incredible drop in the number of fatalities each year, and we should see fewer people in the criminal justice system for repeat offenses on DUI conviction,” Jolley said.
“It’s really really harsh, but if you’re really going to get people to stop doing it, it has to be that harsh,” broadcast junior Paige Willett said.
Not all sooners agree with Willett. Zoology junior Thomas Fruits said that he is not sure whether the law will be effective.
“If people are that prone to drinking and driving, just putting in an interlock doesn’t mean they won’t find a way around it,” Fruits said. “It doesn’t mean it will alter their behavior.”
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2011, according to the Swezey website.