New laws designed to make people think twice before drinking, driving

Published 6:08 pm Friday, October 10, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The tougher drunken-driving laws that took effect in Michigan last week are likely to make people here think twice before drinking and driving.
That's exactly what lawmakers hope will happen.
The new laws, which Michigan is the 44th state in the country to introduce, lower the blood alcohol level at which people can be convicted of drunken driving from 0.10 to 0.08.
Michigan previously had a two-tiered standard with 0.10 or greater considered drunk driving and 0.08 to 0.09 being impaired driving.
F/Lt. Willie Mays, Michigan State Police Niles Post 53 Post Commander, said
For a first-time offender, a drunk driving conviction under the new laws carries 93 days in jail, a 6-month license suspension and a $500 fine.
Under the new laws, a convicted first time drunk-driving offender also faces up to 360 hours of community service and up to six points on a drivers license.
Mays said second offense fines now start at $1,000.
And a third offense turns into a felony, which can mean up to a year in jail, he said.
A strong supporter of the new drunken-driving laws, Mays is glad Michigan has finally decided to do what he thinks is right for Michigan motorists.
Mays said the primary goal of the new laws are to make sure people are safe when they drive.
He hopes they will reduce the number of people who die in alcohol- and drug-related accidents in the state each year.
The Michigan State Police say last year in Michigan, 358 people were killed in alcohol-only crashes, 41 in drug-involved crashes and 64 in both alcohol- and drug-involved crashes.
Mays does, however, expect that some people will protest the new laws, especially in the beginning.
Chief Ric Huff, Niles City Police Department, also supports the new laws because "people shouldn't be drinking and driving."
However, he doesn't think the new laws will affect his officers' work greatly.
Although enforcing the new laws will be a little murky, Huff said the overall intent of the new law -- which is to reduce accidents and save lives -- is good.
Under the new law, changes have also been made in regards to people driving while under the influence of drugs.
Illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, GHB or cocaine, and even some prescribed drugs are now classified as "schedule 1" drugs.
With this change, prosecutors won't have to prove the driver was impaired, just that they were driving with those drugs in their system.
Many studies have shown that 0.08 laws save lives.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSHA) say lab and on-the-road research show that the vast majority of drivers are significantly impaired at 0.08 with regard to critical driving tasks such as braking, steering, lane changing, judgement and divided attention.
The NTSHA estimates the country would save 400 to 600 lives each year if all states adopted 0.08 laws.
The change in laws also means Michigan avoids significant penalties and the loss of highway construction funds.