- August 18, 2012
In 2011, Alabama became the last state to enact driving under the influence (DUI) legislation that included the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDS). Under the law, Alabama courts are required to order the installation of IID’s for those first-time offenders whose blood alcohol levels are 0.15 or higher and for all repeat offenders. An IID is a small device that is connected to the vehicle’s ignition system. The driver needs to blow into the device to submit a breath sample, and the IID measures the content of alcohol in the breath sample. If there is too much alcohol in the sample, the IID prevents the car from starting.
Now federal officials are wanting states to enact stricter DUI enforcement legislation. Many states already have measures that require all first-time DUI offenders to install interlock ignition measures, and groups against drunk driving are pushing for even more reforms. Federal research has shown that those drunk drivers who have a prior conviction DUI, were four times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is one of the organizations pushing for more reform and the agency is putting pressure on state legislators to create tougher legislation. With $21 million in funds to help enforce this issue, the NHTSA’s push for reform is tempting to states hurt by the downturn of the economy. The NHTSA’s effort is also being backed by advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
In Alabama, a first-time DUI offender can be sentenced to jail up to one year, and IID requirement when BAC is 0.15 or higher, receive a $600 to $2,100 fine, and a mandatory 90-day suspension of driving privileges. A second-time offender can be sentenced to one year in jail, a $1,100 to $5,100 fine, suspension of driving privileges for one year, and the requirement of a IID. If a driver has a third DUI within five years of his previous conviction, he can be sentenced to one year in jail, fined $2,100 to $10,100, suspension of driving privileges for three years and an IID requirement. A fourth DUI conviction within five years in considered a Class C felony, and the offender can serve up to ten years in jail, pay a $4,100 to $10,100 fine, and will have his driving privileges revoked for a period of five years.
Although these penalties may seem strict to some individuals, drunk driving is a serious problem in this country. According to NHTSA statistics, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2010, which accounted for 31 percent of all traffic deaths in that year. Because of national efforts to fight drunk driving, which includes legislation that requires stricter penalties, drunk driving fatalities have declined 35 percent since 1991. Advocates will keep pushing for stricter laws and more stringent penalties until all drivers become responsible and not drink and drive.