Ignition interlock devices mean tougher DUI laws in MS

Published: May. 19, 2013 at 9:24 PM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2013 at 5:54 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - More and more ignition interlock devices are being used for DUI offenders. Its a device that keeps a car from starting, if a driver has had too much alcohol.

Mississippi is joining the list of states that use the device.

On Highway 53, almost six years ago, one man's nightmare came true.

"She came around the curve with no headlights, 80 miles per hour," said Bill Downs. "I lost my son, his wife and friend to a drunk driver."

Now, three crosses stand on the side of the road, symbolizing the life of Brad and Samantha Downs and their friend Chris Dafoe. Their lives were taken too soon.

"It's not something you ever forget. It's with you 24-7," said Downs.

It's a story that rings true for State Representative Mark Formby who lost his five-year-old niece Ella in January. In April, he proposed law passed in legislative session, adopting the use of ignition interlock devices for people with previous DUI's.

"I think about how different life would be for our family and the other family had this device been in the car because the person that caused this accident had prior DUI's."

The law passed and was signed by the Governor. It law will go into effect in Mississippi at the beginning of July, giving judges the opportunity to mandate the installation of the device for first time DUI offenders. That means they wouldn't be able to start their ignition without blowing less than the legal alcohol limit.

"I think every state needs this, certainly nothing is going to stop this but it would put a road block or give the judicial system the opportunity to put a road block and having to stand before a judge after having killed somebody," said Formby.

It's an effort that is supported by Downs who is now the Gulf Coast chapter leader for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.)

"I firmly believe that if all offenders have this device in their vehicle; they will stop," said Downs.

Downs said it will be a long time before drinking and driving is completely eliminated, but with tougher laws like this, Mississippi is on the road to justice.

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