New legislation regarding drunk driving convictions will give greater oversight to those offenders.
July 1 is the day the new laws will go into effect regarding ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.
It will require all convicted of DUI “with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater to use the devices on their vehicles to prevent future offenses,” according to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, whose organization helped push the legislation.
According to MADD, the new law will also require an “in-vehicle” camera system with the ignition interlock which will take a photo each time the breathalyzer is activated.
The cameras “will discourage violators from ‘blowing’ for a drunk driver,” according to MADD’s announcement.
“Just like any law, it's only as effective as its enforcement and the penalty for breaking it. Right now, the penalty for driving a car without an ignition interlock device is a Class A misdemeanor which carries a max fine of $2,500 and a max sentence of 11 months, 29 days in jail,” said Brooklynn Townsend, who is the prosecuting DUI attorney in the 10th Judicial District.
“There is the cost to keep in mind, especially for people who cannot afford to put an ignition interlock device on their car. Right now, a first offense DUI costs a defendant about $1,100 in total fines and court costs. That is a lot of money for the majority of people who get a DUI. That fine and cost has to be paid before the person can get a restricted license to drive to and from work, school, church, or DUI school,” Townsend added.
“The people who can’t afford it will not put it on their car and just risk the penalty of being caught. All these things need to be kept in mind when evaluating the new ignition interlock law,” she said.
According to MADD, 18 states now require interlock devices to be installed as part of the restricted driving privileges of a convicted DUI offender.
Required devices are also expected to cut down on repeat offenders.
“Studies show that a first-time convicted drunk driver is not a first-time offender, but rather it is simply the first time they have been caught. In fact, first-time offenders have driven drunk an average of 80 times before they are convicted,” according to MADD.
Townsend also had concerns about drug offenders who are charged with DUI.
“Tennessee has just about as many drug DUIs as alcohol DUIs. Tennessee is the No. 2 prescription drug abused state in the USA. This new law is a start to stopping drunk driving but it will not stop ALL impaired driving. However, if this law saves one life, especially if that life is your loved one or friend, it will have been worth it,” Townsend said.