Phoenix Drunk Driving Accidents Spur Call for Stiffer Penalties

If Washington lawmakers are successful, drunk driving accidents in Phoenix would decrease due to harsher sanctions for first-time DUI offenders.

The bill, working its way through a number of house committees, would offer states money – millions of dollars – if they impose the new rules. Most notable among those rules is the requirement for first-time offenders to pay to have a breath device installed that would measure the amount of alcohol in their blood before they could turn the car on.

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Our Phoenix car accident lawyers know that the Arizona courts already use this program — called the Ignition Interlock Program — for people who have been convicted of more than one DUI. If the new law were passed, first-time DUI offenders would be required to use it too, if the state wanted access to the millions of dollars in federal grant money.

What’s at stake is a share of $25 million, which would be doled out among qualifying states for various highway safety projects.

Some argue the bill would cost participating states more to implement than it would be worth. The most vocal critic, up until now, has been the American Beverage Institute (for obvious reasons).

An ABI spokeswoman even likened the bill to bribery, saying it was especially unfair to make this strings-attached proposal amid a struggling economy.

However, we would ask you to consider this: According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for the average first-time DUI offender, the arrest isn’t the first time they have ever driven impaired. It’s merely the first time he or she has been caught. The advocacy group determined the typical first-time DUI offender has driven drunk about 80 times prior to that first arrest.

What’s more, according to the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, the interlock device program decreases the chances of another drunk driving offense, especially when it’s paired with some other service program, for as long as the device is being used.

In Arizona, it’s the offenders who are responsible to pay to have the machines installed if they want driving privileges. There is a list of approved providers, and it costs about $400 – not including court fines and fees.

In addition to the increased punishment for first-time drivers, the new bill would also spell out specific penalties for people with multiple DUI convictions. Right now, judges have the option of taking away the driver’s license for a full year or making the driver install the breath machine for 12 months, and allowing that person certain driving privileges, such as work and school.

A draft of the bill outlines very specifically the terms under which a repeat offender using the breath machine could drive.

In Arizona, those driving with the interlock device are limited to driving to the following places:

-Work.

-Home.

-School.

-Alcohol or drug treatment.

-Probation office.

-Doctor’s office.

-Am interlock device service center.

Drivers who break this rule or fail to have their device serviced every month face further penalties and fines.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call 602-819-5191. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

House transportation bill expected to go after drunken driving, By Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill

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