State lawmakers should stand firm on a good, bipartisan Senate bill to toughen penalties for those convicted of drunken driving by requiring interlock devices for anyone whose driving privileges are restored after a DWI conviction. The bill is sponsored by Wake County’s Sen. Josh Stein and two Republicans. Stein is a Democrat.
No issue could be less partisan than this one.
Durham Sen. Floyd McKissick argued that first-time offenders might deserve more of a break than this bill offers. He doesn’t appear to have much support, and his notion that the requirement for an interlock device, for which someone has to pay up to $90 a month, might be a hardship seemed to fall flat for his colleagues.
Stein notes that requiring the devices can cut down on the number of repeat offenders dramatically, and that’s one reason that 26 other states require the devices after all DWI convictions.
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And as Mothers Against Drunk Driving has documented, a huge percentage of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes were first-time offenders. There also are studies that show those who are caught for a first DWI offense have likely driven under the influence many times before.
Some trial lawyers worry that requiring the devices for all offenders will slow the courts because more defendants will want jury trials instead of agreeing to plea bargains. It may be a problem. But drunken driving that results in serious injury or death is a bigger problem. This measure should stand as it is.