Local lawmaker: Indiana could okay anti-drunk driving device

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An Indiana lawmaker believes the State Legislature would sign off on technology that could stop drunken drivers from getting on the road.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tuesday that all states require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, including first time offenders. It also encouraged more research on other alcohol detecting technologies.

The interlock device is known to use a breathalyzer to check a driver’s blood alcohol level. It also has the ability to prevent the driver’s vehicle from starting if he or she blows above the legal limit.

“This is a tool that, I think that, our state and all states should have,”‬ said State Senator Jim Merrit, R-31.

Currently, only 17 states require the device, but Merritt believes the Indiana Statehouse would also push it through, especially after State Rep. William Stine was killed in a crash in 2003, apparently caused by a drunken driver. He was 62.

‪”We lost a legislator several years ago down in the south part of Indianapolis… and I think the legislature always makes a point to have a strong position on anti-alcohol, anti-impairment, but also understanding that there could be a repeat offender and more times than not they’re going to harm someone,”‬ said Merritt.

Public opinion, however, is divided. Many viewers on Fox 59’s Facebook page expressed their favor for the recommendation, but there were also some who felt it was another case of big government.

“My first thought was that it’s just more government gone wild,”‬ said Jason Sharp on Fox59’s Facebook page.

He said he’s lost a family member in a drunk driving accident, but he doesn’t believe a new law is the solution. He’d rather see current laws toughened up.

“We re-write legislation to where the penalties are tougher for those who are drunk driving or kill somebody while drunk driving and we start charging them with first degree murder… instead of vehicular manslaughter where they’re serving seven, eight years,” he explained. “Now they’re facing 50 years, life, or even the death penalty. Those are penalties for their actions.”

Even though he is against the recommendation, he does believe it will pass in Indiana. Legislators like Merritt are counting down the days.

‪”It is something that needs to happen immediately,” he said. “It’s gonna save lives.”‬

Merritt said he doesn’t know of any related legislation on the agenda for the upcoming session, but said many lawmakers are discussing it.

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