From 2013-2015 1,126 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver in Ohio alone, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  Ohio’s rate of driving under the influence has been reported as higher than the national average.  In addition to these statistics, one in three traffic deaths in the United States involved a drunk driver according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We undoubtedly need a new approach to prevent people from driving while drunk.  Educating and advertising to residents of Ohio about the subject is a great start, but further action is necessary. 

Currently, DUI offenders must serve a driving suspension by law in Ohio; the driver may commute only to work and school under such a suspension.  It is estimated that 50-75 percent of the time these suspensions are violated, making this punishment difficult to enforce and highly ineffective.

Those sour statistics can be improved with House Bill 388, also known as “Annie’s Law”, which passed in the Ohio House of Representatives.  If this bill passes in the Senate, it will help prevent repeat offenders from driving while drunk again.  This law allows a first time OVI offender to ask the court for unlimited driving privileges with an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle during the time of their suspension. Before this driver can start their car, they must blow into the IID to prove they are not under the influence of any alcohol whatsoever. 

The IID technology has been evolving over the years, with advancements that make the device safer and more difficult to circumvent.  This technology will undoubtedly be more effective at preventing individuals from getting behind the wheel while drunk as compared to the current license suspension.  According to MADD, states that have passed all-offender interlock laws, like this one, have experienced up to a 50 percent decrease in deaths from drunk driving.

The namesake of this bill, Annie Rooney, a lawyer from the Chillicothe area, was killed on July 4, 2013 by a drunk driver.  This driver was arrested five times for drunk driving prior to the night Annie died.  If this driver had not been able to start their vehicle that night because of an ignition interlock device, Annie Rooney’s family would not have experienced that heartache.

I am proud to say I voted in favor of Annie’s Law and promote safe, sober driving.  Annie’s Law will make Ohio roadways much safer if it is passed by the Ohio Senate, and it will certainly protect innocent lives such as Annie Rooney’s.

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