State Senate OKs Crackdown On DUIs After Edmond Woman's Death

Tuesday, March 15th 2011, 4:29 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in Oklahoma would have to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for two years under a bill passed by the state Senate and sent to the House.

The Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act passed on a 45-0 vote Tuesday. The bill named after a 20-year-old Edmond woman killed by a drunken driver.

"We're trying to keep drunk drivers off the road.  That is our purpose.  Today was a significant step towards that direction.  I'm very honored to serve in a body that agreed with that principle and moved that public policy forward," said Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. "I want to thank publicly all the members of the State Senate today who gave their voice of support for this bill."

A second DUI conviction would require the ignition lock for five years and a third would lead to the device being installed for eight years.

The lock includes a device that detects alcohol and the driver must blow into it. If any alcohol is detected -- it will not allow the vehicle to start.

Some senators voiced concerns because the bill required the words "DUI Conviction" to be branded on a person's driver license id convicted. Jolley accommodated those members by amending the bill so that instead, the words "Interlock Required" would be printed on the individual's license for as long as they were required to have an interlock device.

"Our goal is not to stigmatize those who are convicted of drunk driving—it's to make sure they are not driving while drunk," Jolley said.

The Swezeys thanked Jolley and the Senate for passage of the measure, and urged the House to join in supporting the Erin Swezey Act.

"Oklahoma is one of the top six states in deaths from DUI accidents. That's not a distinction we want. This bill would stop that. In every state that has a law like this—13 states so far—drunk driving deaths have dropped by at least 30 percent. In Arizona they've dropped 46 percent," said Keith Swezey. "Oklahoma needs to join the ranks of those states."