MADD rallies to support bill allowing ignition interlocks in DUI convictions

02/03/2015 10:14 PM

FRANKFORT — Alex Otte was 13 when she was “mowed over” by a drunk boater while sitting on a jet ski on Lake Herrington.

The 18-year-old Lexington native, who lost a leg and suffered other major injuries in the wreck, shared her story without regrets Tuesday as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other supporters rallied for House Bill 60, legislation that would make ignition interlock devices an optional punishment in DUI convictions.

State Rep. Dennis Keene, a Wilder Democrat and sponsor of HB 60, called the bill “a deterrent” for drunk driving that will help save lives.

The interlock devices require first-time or repeat offenders to pass a breath test below a preset blood-alcohol level before starting their vehicles, and those using the system must pay installation and monthly fees, which range from $50-$100 and $50-$100 according to an analysis by the Legislative Research Commission.

“In 2013 we lost 163 people because of drunk drivers,” said Keene, whose daughter was nearly killed in a DUI accident in 2002. “Just think about how many of those lives we could have saved with the passage of interlock legislation.”

HB 60, which Keene filed Jan. 6, is not his first attempt at an interlock bill as he’s introduced similar pieces of legislation in recent years without success once they reach the Republican-led Senate.

Senate President Robert Stivers declined to speculate on HB 60’s chances if the House sends it across the Capitol, saying he had not seen the legislation nor had he discussed it with the GOP caucus.

“I just met with the MADD representatives and they were talking about it today,” Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters. “… I think what’s fair is to say that we’ll review it. I understand the concept of it, but we need to look at it to have a valid assessment.”

MADD supporters, during the rally in the Capitol Rotunda, spoke about their personal tragedies in trying to build support around the interlock devices.

Otte said the driver of the boat, who had prior DUI convictions and picked up more later, left her with a severe brain injury that causes anxiety and short-term memory loss; two shattered femurs; a broken neck; a broken jaw; and a broken collarbone. She later lost her right leg in the Herrington Lake accident.

“I’m not here to try and take back what happened to me,” she said. “I can’t do that, and I’m happy that I’m here because I can help protect others. If I can keep it from happening to someone else, it’s all worth it.

“I speak all across the country, and the one thing I have always said is that if what I say and what I’ve been through causes one person to think before they get in a car or push away the beer, it will all be worth it.”

Colleen Sheehey-Church, national president of MADD, lost her son Dustin when he was 18 when he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Suspending a person’s license alone hasn’t proven an effective tool in keeping offenders off Kentucky’s roads, she said.

“MADD believes that this is critical for all states to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law like Rep. Keene’s House Bill 60,” Sheehey-Church said. “Interlocks keep drunk drivers from driving drunk, they protect the public, and they allow offenders to continue with their daily lives. These devices are so important because we know that 50 to 75 percent of all convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive even with a suspended license.”

State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, will carry a companion bill in the Senate. Other states that passed similar interlock legislation have experienced a more than 30 percent drop in drunk-driving fatalities, he said during the rally.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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