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Politics & Government

Plan Would Tweak Drunk-Driving Penalties for First-Timers

State House and Senate supporters of a bill aiming to curb drunk driving in Pennsylvania say they’re hoping this is the year the measure goes all the way to the governor’s desk.

“There’s an old saying, the third time’s the charm,” said Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), sponsor of a bill to let some first-time impaired-driving offenders keep their licenses as long as their cars are equipped with an ignition interlock. The restriction requires drivers to pass a Breathalyzer-type test before starting their vehicles.

Under the bill, it would be required for higher-level first-time offenders, and optional for the less severe cases.

Rafferty said the interlock would be less disruptive to an offender’s life than a suspended driver’s license, which is what current law prescribes for certain convicts.

“They can get back to the road to go to work, pick up their children, and do so in this controlled environment — controlled environment means you can’t start the car if you’re showing that there’s alcohol or drugs in your system,” Rafferty said.

State law requires ignition interlock restrictions only for people convicted twice or more for driving under the influence.

The national Mothers Against Drunk Driving group supports the measure, and says 38 states require interlocks for certain first-time offenders.

The American Beverage Institute is opposing a similar plan in New Jersey.