Gov. Dave Heineman has signed a bill into law toughening rules in Nebraska for people who get behind the wheel after drinking too much. It takes effect in July.
The new law, previously LB736, requires people found guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles. The rule would apply to all drivers, including first-time offenders.
Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a 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.
Advocates for stricter drunken driving rules cite statistics that show drivers who are convicted on driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.
In Nebraska, supporters are hopeful that mandating the interlock devices will result in fewer repeat offenders.
Typically, offenders lose their licenses for six months. The new law allows them to apply for interlock devices after not driving for 30 days. Permit holders could drive only to work, school or alcohol treatment for the next five months.
First-time offenders found guilty of driving with a BAC of 0.15 or more would face a two-month suspension before applying for a special permit. They would be required to drive with the device installed for 10 months.
The same rule would apply for repeat offenders.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Nebraska in 2008, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor