Georgia bill would change penalties for first-time DUI offenders

Legislators in the Georgia House of Representatives are currently considering a bill that would alter the consequences for Georgia motorists convicted of driving under the influence for the first time.

Currently, such offenders may be granted a limited driving permit, which allows them to travel to specific locations, including their place of employment and recovery programs. The proposed legislation - House Bill 671 - would require even those convicted of a first driving under the influence offense to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for one year. The bill would impose the same penalty on motorists who refuse to participate in a field sobriety or breathalyzer test when requested.

Ignition interlock devices allow a motorist to operate their vehicle only after they have blown into the device and recorded a blood alcohol concentration of no greater than 0.024 percent. The device also takes a photograph to ensure the motorist is not using a third party to blow into the device to start the vehicle.

Legislators are hopeful that if the bill passes, the ignition interlock requirement will reduce the number of people killed in drunk driving accidents in the state each year. According to the executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Georgia, a large percentage of offenders continue to drive even when their license has been suspended due to a drunk driving incident. By installing ignition interlock devices as opposed to suspending a motorist's license, the driver would be unable to operate the vehicle if he or she was intoxicated.

Drunk driving collisions a serious problem across the US

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 people lose their lives in drunk driving accidents in the U.S. each day. In total, over 10,000 people died in such auto crashes in the United States in 2010 - making drunk driving responsible for over 30 percent of all fatal traffic incidents that year.

In Georgia alone, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reported that over 300 people died in drunk driving accidents in 2012. In total, 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state were caused by drunk drivers that year - an 11 percent increase from the year prior. In addition, MADD reported that 5,700 people were injured in drunk driving crashes in Georgia in 2012.

When someone is injured in a collision involving a drunk driver, he or she may be able to recover damages because of the harm caused in the collision. In addition, family members who lose a loved one in such a crash may be able to recover in a wrongful death suit. In such situations, seeking the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney will ensure the rights of those involved are protected.