WJTV News Channel 12 - Lawmakers tightening the belt on DWI offenders

Lawmakers tightening the belt on DWI offenders

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North Carolina lawmakers want to toughen drunk-driving laws so more people convicted can't drive again unless they've totally abstained from alcohol.

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of more restrictions on DWI offenders whose blood-alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit or higher.

First-time offenders currently can receive limited driving privileges, mostly for three years, but their vehicles must include equipment requiring them to blow into a device to start them.

The current limit for drivers with a restricted license is 0.04 percent. The bill filed by rep. Darren Jackson of Raleigh says drivers can't have any alcohol in their systems to drive.

Zero-tolerance limits already apply to worse offenders.

The bill now goes to the senate.

Reports show more than 2,000 people have died in the past five years from a DWI accident.

Experts estimate 1 in 3 people will be in an alcohol related accident.

Recently, prosecutors charged 24-year-old Amber Sandvig with her second DWI in a crash that killed her 6-year-old daughter Alanna.

In Beaufort County, Shykeen Moore was charged with DWI after leading police on a high speed chase, police say his kids were in the car.

And in Carteret County, four kids were sent to hospital, two of them in critical condition after police say their mother was driving drunk.

"We're going out and actively looking for these impaired motorists, and they're still out there," said Cpl. Michael Montanye from the Greenville Police Department.

While the saying is "Booze it and Lose it", it's not just alcohol. Police have arrested plenty of drivers impaired on drugs.

"There is the opinion that if I'm below a .08 I can't be charged with driving while impaired, and that's false," explained Montanye, "If a person decides to go and do drugs, illegal or prescription, if that officer develops the opinion that you are impaired he can arrest you for that charge even with no alcohol in your system."

So how do we fix it? Many say it comes down to lawmakers tightening the belt.

"By them cracking down and making the laws and rules stricter I think you can't help but see a reduction," said Montanye.

There are several bills law makers are tossing around now calling for tighter restrictions, some requiring a breath test for offenders before they can start their car. 

9 On Your Side will let you know if any new changes become law.

You can find out more on how you can get involved through NC M.A.D.D (Mother's Against Drunk Driving)

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