New DWI bill passes Missouri House committee

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by Craig Cheatham / News 4 Investigator

KMOV.com

Posted on April 10, 2012 at 10:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 11:24 AM

(News 4 Investigates) -- Two months ago, I interviewed Missouri state representative Charlie Denison for a story about  ignition interlock devices.

Our story revealed what the experts have known for many years: The devices save lives. When I interviewed him, I provided Rep. Denison with links about studies and how other states were using interlocks. He told me that based on our story he would introduce a bill. 

He kept his promise. 

Denison's bill allows drivers convicted of their 1st DWI to keep their license if they agree to drive only with the interlock device. The interlocks are hooked up to a vehicle's ignition. The driver must blow into a tube or mouthpiece to start the vehicle. If the driver has too much alchohol in his/her system, the interlock won't allow the vehicle to start. Right now, drivers convicted of their 2nd DWI are required to use the interlocks, but they are not used for 1st time offenders.

Many states have laws similar to the bill introduced by Rep. Denison. Many of those states have seen dramatic reductions in DWI related deaths after the laws went into effect. Some states have seen fatalities cut by up to 50-percent. 

Denison's bill, House Bill 2063, is a reasonable approach to DWI. It attacks the behavior, but it still allows offenders to function as normally as possible and keep jobs they may lose if they lose their license. It also requires offenders to pay for the device, or at least part of it. Repeat drunk drivers must use the interlocks for increasingly longer periods of time based on their number of convictions. Drivers convicted of 5 DWIs must use an interlock for the rest of their lives.

Today, Denison's bill passed a House committee by a 12-0 vote. Now, it appears headed to the full House.

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