Illinois legislators approve stricter drunken driving rule

| Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Illinois General Assembly has approved a bill that would get tough with drunken drivers. It now heads to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desk.

The legal definition of drunken driving in the state is a blood alcohol content reading of 0.08 percent or higher.

House and Senate lawmakers approved a bill – SB300 – by unanimous consent that would require judges to issue restricted licenses to anyone convicted of driving under the influence. The stricter rule also would apply to first-time offenders. The restricted license would allow violators to drive only vehicles equipped with breath-testing ignition interlocks.

The interlocks are hooked up to the ignitions of vehicles. Once the device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them, or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

Nearly 20 states have similar rules.

Supporters of the bill say the stricter rules are needed because not all DUI offenders change their behavior after being caught. They also say it sends a strong message to first-time offenders.

Opponents say it’s unfair to lump together all DUI offenders into one class.

If the bill is signed into law, it wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2009.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2007, click here.

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