Two new laws address driving under the influence of alcohol. One, LB 667 passed by the legislature in 2010, could allow more drivers ticketed for a first offense DUI to keep driving.
Measuring blood alcohol content with a breathalyzer is a common occurrence during a DUI stop. A law enforcement officer typically administers the test.
If a driver registers .08 or higher, an arrest for driving under the influence is likely. But a DUI arrest is a better result than what could happen if the driver continued down the road. Crashes involving alcohol get a lot of attention from Fred Zwonechek, the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety administrator. He said recent efforts to decrease alcohol-related deaths and injuries are working.
“Anytime we’ve done anything in the alcohol-impaired area, they’ve been pretty successful,” he said. “We’re the best we’ve ever been in terms of reducing alcohol-related crashes, the crash rate —
alcohol-related fatalities were the lowest ever recorded in the state’s history since 1937.”
Zwonechek says annually about 25 percent of those arrested for driving under the influence are multiple offenders. But he pointed out that even those arrested for DUI the first time have likely driven after drinking before.
Zwonecheck said the challenge is to help those who drink and drive get help.
“The real issue is to get these people into treatment and
rehabilitation,” he said, “or they are just going to come out and begin to repeat the same behavior over again. We know that because we’ve got ten-time convicted offenders, over 100 of them.”
A new law in Nebraska may actually allow more people arrested for drunk driving to remain behind the wheel, but state officials say a device installed in the vehicle will keep roads safer overall.
Statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers say up to 75 percent of drivers whose licenses have been suspended for drunk driving continue to drive.
Now, after getting behind the wheel, an Interlock Ignition Device won’t allow the vehicle to start if the driver’s been drinking. Like blowing into a breathalyzer, the driver must blow into the I.I.D. before attempting to start the vehicle. State Sen. Mike Flood’s legislation, passed last year, also limits where the driver can go, if the vehicle starts.
“What this law does today is allows the first-time offender, repeat offender to keep their job, to pick up their kids after school, to go to those things that they need to go to, to maintain compliance with probation and parole agencies. That allows us to potentially keep that person off the Medicaid rolls, provide for their family, hopefully they’ll … get the help that he or she needs following an arrest.”
Until this year, before any possible court proceedings, those arrested for DUI often went through administrative license revocation with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Those hearings are costly to the state, in part because arresting officers often would be required to appear during off hours, costing the law enforcement entity overtime.