Driver safety efforts sought in three states

| Monday, November 27, 2006

Lawmakers in three states could take up efforts to get tough with people who drive under the influence.

In Louisiana, a state legislator is pushing for consideration of a bill that would allow authorities to charge a driver under the influence of drugs with possession of narcotics - in his body.

Sen. Art Lentini, R-Kenner, told the Senate Insurance Committee the change in classification would get the attention of drivers.

His comments followed testimony before the panel by State Police Trooper Jay Cripple. Cripple said Louisiana law allows authorities to suspend the driver's license of a motorist stopped for drunken driving if they refuse to take a breath test. However, the rule doesn't allow the suspension of a driver's license if they are stopped for driving under the influence of drugs and refuse to take a urine or blood test, The Times-Picayune reported.

Proposals to combat dangerous driving are being sought in New Mexico.

Among the efforts likely to be brought forward for lawmakers to consider is more money for treatment of alcohol abuse to allowing judges to order any juveniles convicted of a crime to install ignition-interlock devices in their vehicles, The New Mexican reported. The crime committed wouldn't have to be drunken driving.

Another proposal could be to count out-of-state driving while intoxicated convictions as part of a state law requiring the use of ignition-interlocks.

New Mexico law already requires residents convicted of drunken driving to install an ignition-interlock device after their first conviction. Gov. Bill Richardson would like to expand it to cover all drivers' license applicants in the state if they had a DWI conviction elsewhere since 2005.

The state typically ranks among the states with the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths, The New Mexican reported.

In addition to his ignition-interlock proposal, Richardson has offered a handful of other initiatives. Among them is a requirement that hazard-elimination devices be installed on highways, such as spikes to shred tires that are headed the wrong way on ramps.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said he intends to push for tougher drunken driving laws next year in an effort to cut down on alcohol-related wrecks in the state.

Sanford said he has no specific legislation that he was proposing but favors harsher penalties against those convicted of DUI. The governor said he supports a House bill that failed passage earlier this year.

Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Harrison the bill sought to increase penalties depending on the level of alcohol in the driver's blood. It also called for mandatory counseling and public service and required prison time for those convicted of three or more drunk-driving offenses.

Harrison, R-Richland, said he plans to file legislation again for the session that begins Jan. 9.

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