EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSRecent Accidents Put Spotlight On WV DUI Laws
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Oct. 7, 2013 11:21 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 8, 2013 10:08 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Recent drunk driving crashes in West Virginia are putting a spotlight on the state's DUI laws.
Under state law, you're legally drunk if your blood alchol content is .08 or above.
For a first DUI offense, you could be sent to jail for up to six months For a 2nd offense, that increases to a year, and a third offense could get you up to three years jail. All offenses also come with fines and license suspensions.
Penalities are a bit stiffer if anyone is injured or hurt as the result of a DUI crash.
You must successfully complete a safety and treatment program before you can have your driving privileges reinstated.
Even still, those penalties don't seem harsh enough for anyone who's lost a loved one because of a drunk driver.
The state says it is committed to keeping drunk drivers off the roads, and West Virginia has some of the toughest laws around for revoking a drunk driver's license.
But the reality is, a lot of DUI offenders end up back on the roads, whether they're supposed to be driving or not.
And for families who've suffered a loss at the hands of a drunk driver, that's a tough pill to swallow.
Rewind back to a winter night 13 years ago along a Sissonville road. Barb Crizer, her mom and boyfriend were driving together when their lives came to a screeching halt. Their vehicle was smashed into by a drunk driver. Even after all this time, it's still painful for Crizer's son to think about.
"It has killed us," said Crizer's son Mike Landers.
To Mike Landers the worst part was learning the man behind the wheel not only had a blood alchohol level more than three times the legal limit, he was told that driver had been busted for drunk driving before.
"Apparently, when he hit them he had 10 DUI's, that making the 11th," Landers said.
And even though the driver could've been sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in jail...just last week, Landers saw the convicted man out walking around, now free and living in Kanawha County.
"If he'd of gotten punished for the first one my mother and grandma would be here if he got punished right. But him having all those DUI's and just getting his hand slapped..It's not right," said Landers.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles knows repeat drunk driving is a serious problem. So it is actively working on some solutions. While victim family members like Landers think stiffer penalties are the answer, the DMV is looking at a different approach. First, it plans to keep strongly enforcing current law, and second make a big change to encourage offenders to stay sober. The idea is to get anyone convicted of a DUI to install what's called an interlock device, which literally won't let a drunk person start their car.
"It's an effective way of reducing the DUI issue because not only does it provide behavior modification to the driver, you have to blwo into that brethalyzer in the car every time you start it, but it provides safety to the other motorists on the road," said Steven Dale, West Virginia DMV Commissioner.
A new law pushing all DUI offenders to have interlock devices is currently being put together, with the goal of getting it passed by the state legislature next session. In other states where such devices have been required for all DUI offenders, drunk driving rates have dropped by up to 50 percent.
If a DUI offender does prison time, the proposed legislation would even require the interlock device for two years after they are released.
Governor Tomblin is also working on an initiative to help police better detect all kinds of impaired drivers, like those who aren't safe to be behind the wheel because of pill abuse.
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