Amendment would require ignition device for all convicted drunk drivers

State leaders have a plan to crack down on drunk drivers
Published: Jul. 19, 2014 at 3:40 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2014 at 2:53 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If some folks in North Carolina have their way, all convicted drunk drivers will have to have ignition interlocks installed in their vehicles.

"We think it's necessary because the first time offender is just as dangerous as the habitual offender" said LaRonda Scott, MADD NC State Executive Director."

Currently, only three categories of drivers have to use the ignition locks.

People who refuse breathalyzers, habitual DWI offenders - that's 3 or more convictions in 7 years, and first time convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater.

Leaders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving believe an amendment is needed to make all convicted drunk drivers blow into the device. They want lawmakers to advance House Bill 41 and House Bill 1027 with the amendment.

MADD says many convicted DWI offenders continue to drive during license suspension. They believe the ignition interlock amendment - if passed - will reduce drunk driving crashes.

According to MADD, in 2013, "347 fatalities and more than 7,700 injuries were the result of an alcohol related crash."

"We want North Carolina to see the 42% reduction that Arizona has, or the 38% reduction in deaths that New Mexico has seen" Scott said. "This is a life saving measure and we need them to act now."

24 states currently have laws requiring the ignition device for all convicted drunk drivers.

Dan Meyer, of Monitech, installs the 'quick test' unit. He says when drivers "first get in the car all they would do is pick it up and it turns on for them."

The device has a pre-set level of alcohol that drivers cannot exceed.

After entering a 4-digit pin number, Meyer says drivers "hum and blow into it. The unit will let them know if they pass or failed. If they pass, they can start the car. If they failed, it's going to lock them out - won't let them drive."

"I think it's a great idea" said Cori Favor, who lost her mother and sister in a drunk driving crash. "It won't stop everything but it will definitely stop a majority of accidents."

It was the day after Christmas in 2012 when Justin Jones, driving impaired in Matthews, slammed into a vehicle carrying Marie Crook and her adult daughter, Jennifer Hunt.

Jones was eventually sentenced to 7-to-12 years in state prison.

Favor believes all convicted drunk drivers should have to "blow before they go."

"For you to have to breathe into a machine to be able to have the privilege to drive - yeah I think that's okay because I don't have a choice" she said. "My privilege of having my mother and sister here are gone."

Favor would like to see lawmakers act on the bill.

"I think it's one measure in improving what can happen in this world. Not everything is going to be better but there are things we can do to make it safer for my nieces, for other people in our lives."

MADD is urging the public to call the Senate Rules Committee and ask Senators to take action on the bill before this session ends.

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