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New Legislation Imposes Serious Punishments For Drunk Drivers

North Carolina may be on its way to some much tougher drunk driving laws. Following a fatal drunk driving accident on New Year's Day, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is urging lawmakers to crack down on offenders by imposing tougher sentencing and mandatory use of interlock ignition systems.

A representative from MADD says that 37 percent of North Carolina's drunk drivers are repeat offenders. She argues that sentencing is too light and repeat DWI offenders are usually not punished until they seriously injure or kill other drivers.

One of the proposals put forth by MADD is to make it mandatory for all first-time offenders to install an interlock ignition system on their car. These systems require a driver to pass a breathalyzer test before the car can be started. Advanced technology allows these systems to know the difference between human breath and regular forced air, which makes them a very effective deterrent. When a driver fails the test, he must wait several minutes before taking the test again. With each failed test the wait time is increased.

Right now North Carolina does allow the use of interlock ignition systems, but each judge can decide whether or not to require it. This new law would make installation mandatory for even first-time offenders.

January is the most common time for new drunk driving legislation to be introduced. Public awareness is higher right after Christmas and New Year's Eve because more incidents of DWI and alcohol-related fatalities occur around these holidays. Also, January begins the new legislative session and lawmakers are eager to get to work passing bills which have strong public support.

Despite what MADD argues, DWI sentencing in North Carolina is strict, and often includes loss of license, jail time, and expensive fines. If this new law passes, penalties will certainly get even tougher.

Source: NBC 17 online, "Family Of Drunk Driving Victim Joins Call To Keep Repeat Offenders Off Roads," Steve Sbraccia, 03 January, 2011

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