By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 12, 2015
RALEIGH – According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in the latest statistics available, 2013, more than 10,000 people lost their lives and 290,000 were injured in a drunk driving incident. “Each crash, each death, each injury impacts not only the person in the crash, but family, friends, classmates, coworkers and more.” The annual tab for Americans, even for those not touched directly by drunk driving is $132 billion.
AlcoholAlert.com notes that in 2012, North Carolina had 1292 traffic fatalities and 460, 36% were alcohol related, while in 402 cases, 31%, someone was driving with a BAC of more than the legal limit of 0.08.
Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) is a practicing attorney who understands the devastation caused by drunk driving. He knows the state’s drunk-driving laws and he’s represented a number of clients who were victims.
This week, two drunk-diving bills that were sponsored by Jackson and aimed at making the roads safer for North Carolinians passed the House with overwhelming support.
HB 31- 0.00 Alcohol Restriction All – DWI toughens restrictions on chronic DWI. It prohibits those with a drunk-driving conviction, but also allows for limited driving privileges, to have any alcohol in their system when driving. Current state law permits someone convicted of a drunk-driving charge to operate on the roads with up to a 0.04 BAC, but HB 31 changes this to 0.00.
Jackson contends current law as it stands is bad public policy. He believes it’s good to recognize that people have made a mistake and need to be able to drive. Nevertheless, he says we should insist they not drive again after drinking.
HB 31 passed the House 110-4.
HB 2 – Amend Habitual DWI Law toughens the penalty for habitual offenders. Current state law categorizes a habitual offender as someone who is charged for drunk-driving four or more times within ten years. But Jackson’s measure categorizes the individual as a habitual offender on the third offense without a time limit.
Jackson said he once represented a victim of a drunk-driving incident in which the defendant in the case had five prior DWIs on his record. However, because the defendant never reached four convictions within the ten year period, he never received the categorization of a felony offender and was still on the road.
HB 32 passed the House 112-2.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that the League applauds Rep. Jackson’s efforts to stem the tide of driving while impaired in North Carolina.
“There’s nothing seemingly more senseless than the grief of family members who have lost a loved one, the pain of person undergoing rehabilitation treatment from losing a limb or the ability to walk or even an incapacitating brain injury, the emotional anguish of someone – because an individual was inebriated or high while foolishly steering nearly two tons down the highway and seriously injured themselves or another. Jackson’s bill won’t stop DWIs, but it will certainly save a lot of people a lot of heartache and pain,” said Dr. Creech.
Future passage of these two bills may be uncertain in the Senate. Two similar measures were passed by the House last year, but the Senate never took them up.
HB 31 and HB 32 have been sent to the Senate for consideration and referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
Dr. Creech said, “It’s not always the case, but sometimes when legislation is sent to the Rules Committee it isn’t a good sign for the bill. It can mean it’s been sent there to languish and die. Granted, some bills ought to go to Rules to die, but we hope that’s not the reason for these two bills being assigned to that committee.”