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New DUI law stiffens penalties for first-time offenders

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Those convicted of driving drunk for the first time in Pennsylvania will soon have an option to losing their driver's license for a year.

Starting Friday, the ignition interlock law will take effect. It allows first time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .10 or above to get the device installed in their vehicles.

The devices are car breathalyzers that prevent drivers from starting the car if they've been drinking. This new law allows offenders to get the device installed immediately, rather than waiting until after serving a driver's license suspension.

According to PennDOT, the average cost of an ignition interlock system is between $900 and $1,300 per year. The person required to have the device fronts the bill.

There is also a special license associated with the ignition interlock system, indicating that the driver is operating the vehicle with that specification.

Elaine and Paul Miller with PA PAID (Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving) have been advocates of stricter DUI penalties since they tragically experienced it first hand. Their son, former Loganville Fire Chief Rodney Miller, was hit and killed by an impaired driver in 2013.

They hope this new law saves others from the tragedy they've experienced years ago and still feel the effects from daily.

"Hopefully we can reduce the number of deaths associated with impaired driving," says Paul. "We recognize we're not going to eliminate it, but certainly to be able to have laws on the books that are going to have people think before they get behind the wheel of a car [is a good thing."

According to WalletHub, Pennsylvania now ranks 43 in the nation for DUI penalties, rising from 48 in 2016. It's a ranking Pennsylvania shouldn't be proud of, Elaine says.

"So if we can go from 48th position, as having the weakest, to 43rd, that's a big step. But there's so much more to do. We should never be satisfied with being number 43 in the nation."

Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County, sponsored the legislation. In an earlier press release, he says many should be proud of this new law in Pennsylvania.

"The families and friends of DUI victims as well as the legislators who supported this bill through the legislative process should be proud to know that their efforts strengthened DUI laws and made our roadways safer throughout Pennsylvania."

Rafferty, along with MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving], will be holding a press conference about the new law on Thursday at noon at the Capitol Media Center.

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