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As of January 1, 2016, first-time DUI offenders in Illinois will have the option to install a breathalyzer in their car, allowing for limited driving within the designated 30 day suspension period. The device, which acts in very much the same way as handheld breathalyzers used by the police, would require measurement of the driver’s blood alcohol content before the car will start, ensuring that drivers have not been drinking prior to operating their motor vehicle. With a breathalyzer installed the new law permits first time DUI offenders to drive during limited hours, removing some of the hardship that license suspension causes on employment, education, and familial responsibilities.

Although the technology has been available for several years, before the new law took effect drivers had to request a special permit from a judge allowing them to drive to work or school during certain times, and under restrictions such as the car-installed breathalyzer. The new law streamlines the process and makes continuation of driving during approved hours more accessible to first time offenders.

Tracy Williams, of the Evanston, Illinois Police Department, commented on the new law, stating the law is “going to affect someone like the mother of three who got a DUI and is now able to not have a suspended license and continue with normal activities.” She added: “Drunk driving is reckless, 100 percent preventable crime, and one that leads to disaster.”

Some people believe the new law is good because it will keep our streets safer by keeping more drunk drivers off the road. Others think punishing the wrongdoers, even first offenders, is more important.

Whatever one’s opinion on that issue, technology tying the ability to start a car or truck with proof the driver is fit to get behind the wheel presents interesting questions for our future. For example, will such devices become options (or even mandatory equipment) on new or even used vehicles? What about semi-tractors? Trains? Airplanes? Will knowing one’s blood alcohol level encourage driving close to the limit, making things even worse? Regardless, I agree with Williams that drunk driving is a reckless, preventable crime, and one that is absolutely inexcusable. Whatever happens with technology, I am glad that the law still requires drunk drivers to pay for the harm they cause and leaves them exposed to financial ruin through punitive damages; the civil justice system also has an important role to play in  keeping our streets safe.



What do you think? Is this a step in the right direction?

Or is the lessening of punishment simply going to encourage more reckless action?

Let me know your thoughts below

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