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MADD wants tougher DUI laws in Michigan

In a recent report, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) rates Michigan 49 out of 50 states for its drunk driving laws. Only Montana rated lower on their survey of state laws governing DUIs. Michigan did poorly due to insufficiently strict laws related to DUIs with children in the vehicle, not requiring ignition interlocks for all DUI convictions and not using sobriety checkpoints.

It is unclear whether the legislature will pass any of the changes recommended, as some would demand additional funding, in the case of ignition interlocks. Sobriety checkpoints are constitutionally prohibited by a Michigan Supreme Court ruling. But reports like this tend to get the attention of legislators, and a bill has been introduced that would increase the use of ignition interlock devices.

Michigan currently imposes a requirement for ignition interlocks for any driver convicted of being "super-drunk," which is a blood alcohol content measurement of 0.17 or greater, or for any additional DUI convictions after an initial conviction.

MADD would like ignition interlocks for all DUI convictions. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer device that attaches to the ignition system of a vehicle and requires a breath sample to start the vehicle and additional breath samples while driving.

The devices, which are paid for by the driver, are generally seen as more effective at preventing drivers from operating their vehicles while impaired than simply revoking their license, as many offenders have no other option to get to work or make other necessary trips.

But the devices demand administrative monitoring, and the Michigan Secretary of State's office lacks the resources and staff necessary to handle a significant increase in the use of these devices.

Other changes, like the use of sobriety checkpoints, are unlikely, as the practice was found unconstitutional by the state's Supreme Court and reversing that decision or passing a constitutional amendment are probably not likely.

Drunk driving is a complex issue. If it were simple it would have been "solved" years ago. If the legislature does make changes to the laws, they should first carefully examine their options, and avoid simplistic and ineffective solutions.

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