New Pa. DUI law increases penalties on first-time offenders

 Andrew Wisniewski, an operations manager for Smart Start of Maryland, demonstrates how an ignition interlock device works on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland. The devices are put in cars to stop drunk drivers from operating their vehicles. (Brian Witte/AP Photo)

Andrew Wisniewski, an operations manager for Smart Start of Maryland, demonstrates how an ignition interlock device works on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland. The devices are put in cars to stop drunk drivers from operating their vehicles. (Brian Witte/AP Photo)

A new Pennsylvania law going into effect Friday aims to cut down on drunken driving by requiring first-time offenders to have Breathalyzers installed in their cars — something 48 other states already do.

Car Breathalyzers — also known as Ignition Interlock Systems — require drivers to blow into a device to start their vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, the car won’t start, and it will register the attempt.

The systems have substantially cut down on drunken driving. But under previous Pennsylvania laws, only repeat offenders have been required to install them.

State Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, said that policy was badly out of date.

“It’s very symbolic of where Pennsylvania is lagging in terms of how it looks at repeat offenders and DUI laws in general,” he said at a press conference. “Something’s not getting through, and I believe that this place is part of the problem.”

The new law, Act 33 of 2016, stipulates that any driver who’s pulled over with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or who refuses to be tested for alcohol must install the device in their car.

Offenders must pay for the devices, which cost between $900 and $1,300 a year. The law also establishes a new class of license that denotes a driver’s status as a DUI offender.

Sponsor Sen. John Rafferty, R-Berks, said this is just one part of a larger effort to crack down in drunken drivers.

“We’ve been coddling them for too long,” he said. “It’s time to recognize that they have problems. It’s time to recognize that they’re a danger on the highway to other individuals — innocent individuals — and to themselves.”

Rafferty and Martin also want to instate mandatory minimum sentences for drunken driving and harsher penalties for deadly DUI accidents.

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