Laws punish ‘super drunk’

Audrey Menninga

New Ignition Interlock laws, which create a new “super-drunk” category for drunk driving, have been passed by Michigan legislature. The laws focus on stopping people who have been convicted of driving intoxicated from becoming repeat offenders.

The new laws were put into action Oct. 31. They target those who drink excessively and then get behind the wheel, with blood-alcohol content at .17 and above. Punishments include up to 180 days in jail, which is almost double the time for someone caught driving with a .08 BAC level. Offenders will also face up to $700 in fines and mandatory treatment for substance abuse, which is different from the original laws, where only repeat offenders were required to take the substance abuse treatment.

The main focus of the new laws is the driving aspect. While a one-year license suspension is automatic, up from the six months when caught with a .08 BAC, firsttime offenders will be able to drive 45 days after the suspension starts, with the installation of a breathalyzer device in their car. In order to start the car, the driver must blow under a .025 BAC.

While the goal of the laws is to catch first-time offenders, people with multiple drunk driving offenses will also face the tougher penalties.

Public Safety Sergeant Kenneth Love said that the effects of alcohol vary from person to person.

“One drink can effect one person and impair their judgment and impair their driving, whereas two or three drinks may not impair another person’s driving ability,”  Love said. “There’s no set standard for what’s allowable. It’s just a matter of what your tolerance is.”

A study done by the U.S Department of Education found that approximately 25 percent of college students report that they have driven while intoxicated in the last month. More students report that they have gotten in a car with a driver who has been intoxicated. The percentages only increase after college students turn 21.

“We know it’s a college campus, and we know it’s going to happen,” Love said. “If you’re of age and drinking, just get a designated driver. That’s the simplest plan there is.”

An intoxicated driver is not the only one at risk with drunk driving. Lenny Shible, Health Promotion Specialist, said that not only the driver is in danger; there are other people on the road at risk.

“(Drunk drivers) hurt themselves and hurt other people. They destroy families. They destroy communities,” Shible said.

There are many ways to avoid drinking and driving or getting in a car with someone who has been drinking, Shible said.

“It’s important that students make decisions before they go out … because once they start drinking, whether they realize it or not, their ability to make a good judgment about avoiding things that could get them into trouble tends to get compromised,” Shible said.

Some other suggestions Shible gave include staying the night when going off-campus to visit friends, picking a safe and sober designated driver, or calling one of the local cab or limo companies. Designated driver cab cards can be found at the Health Promotion Office in the University Center for easy access to phone numbers.