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Stronger DUI law starts Tuesday in Oklahoma

First-time driving-under-the-influence offenders will be required to have an interlocking ignition device installed on their vehicle.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: October 30, 2011 at 12:07 am •  Published: October 30, 2011
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photo - Keith Swezey, whose daughter Erin was killed by a drunk driver, speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, OK, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011,  about a new law taking affect next Tuesday which will impose tougher penalties on DUI offenders. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Keith Swezey, whose daughter Erin was killed by a drunk driver, speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, OK, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, about a new law taking affect next Tuesday which will impose tougher penalties on DUI offenders. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

In an attempt to keep drunken drivers off the road, first-time driving-under-the-influence offenders will be required to have an interlocking ignition device installed on their vehicle under a law that takes effect Tuesday.

The device is now required only after a second offense. It measures for blood alcohol content by requiring drivers to blow into it before their car can be started.

The measure, Senate Bill 529, requires first-time DUI offenders to have the phrase “Interlock Required” placed on their driver's licenses as long as the device is required. Putting the wording on driver's licenses will help law officers and businesses know whether someone is allowed to drive a vehicle without an interlocking ignition device, authors of the bill said.

The offender will not be allowed to drive vehicles without the interlock device installed. The offender will have to pay for installing the device.

Sen. Clark Jolley, who authored the measure called the Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act, said it will save lives.

It's named for a 20-year-old Edmond woman who was killed by a drunken driver in a head-on crash in 2009 on the Kilpatrick Turnpike in north Oklahoma City. The drunken driver had previous driving-under-the-influence convictions and a blood-alcohol level of 0.29, nearly four times the legal limit of 0.08.

Decision costs 2 lives

“Erin was a beautiful young woman whose life was cut short by a very poor decision,” said Jolley, R-Edmond. “Unfortunately for that gentleman, it was a decision that also cost him his life. But a poor decision to drink and drive resulted in two people losing their lives that night.”

Jolley said he hoped the law will result in people making better choices.

“When they do make those bad decisions ... there's a consequence to those bad decisions,” he said. “The consequence is not just one where we punish them and say you shouldn't have done that, but one that actually is meant to protect the public by keeping them off the road if they've been having a few too many drinks.”

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This new law represents an effort to get serious about drunken driving in Oklahoma. In the past we've kind of treated it like a college prank when someone was drunken driving. They'd get off with a slap on the wrist.”

Keith Swezey,

whose daughter Erin was killed by a drunken driver

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