Cars won't start for DUI offenders if bill passes

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Proposed legislation at the state capitol will require stiffer penalties for drivers convicted of DUI offenses. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and state lawmakers say cutting down on repeat offenders is key.

To say Sherrel Clark's life has been turned upside down by drunk drivers is an understatement. Clark lost her brother in 1988 when his car was hit by a drunk driver. Then in 2006, her daughter Tory was killed the same way. Tory was three months pregnant with twins at the time of the accident.

"My daughter got a death sentence, and I got a life sentence, and I'll never get over it,"said Clark.

Unfortunately, Clark is not the only one. Other loved ones brought pictures and wore buttons to remember. They want all who drink and drive to never forget the consequences their actions could have.

"We have this problem with people who don't understand the seriousness of this crime. They continue to drive drunk," said Representative Phillip Gunn, (R) Clinton.

That's why, with the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Representative Phillip Gunn is proposing a bill to install the ignition interlock device on a driver's vehicle after his or her first DUI conviction. It's a breathalyzer for your car. The vehicle won't start unless the driver's blood alcohol level is under .08. Some say first time offenders are the wrong targets for this bill, but MADD members think otherwise.

"A drunk driver who is stopped and convicted for the first time has driven an average of 87 times before they are ever caught," said MADD President Laura Dean Moody.

Clark thinks it will end a lot of unnecessary grief for many Mississippians.

"No matter what I say, you would never get the full impact of it unless you're walking in my shoes. And the only thing I can do is beg you not to drink and drive," said Clark.

Gunn is modeling his bill after one passed in New Mexico in 2005. He says that bill lowered the number of  alcohol related deaths, injuries and crashes. It also reduced the number of repeat offenders.