Local News

Governor's Commission Looking to Make Tough Drunk Driving Laws Tougher

Posted December 2, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— People who drink and drive have found out the hard way that North Carolina is tough on drunk drivers.

But starting Friday, the Governor's Commission on Driving While Impaired will look for ways to make the laws even stronger.

North Carolina is leading the country in the fight against drunk driving. The number of deaths from drunk driving in the state is consistently at least 10 percent below the national average.

In 1999, the Governor's Commission on DWI wants to see those numbers drop even more.

Trooper Ira Grady stops drunk drivers all the time, and he sees the results of drunk driving accidents first-hand.

"You never know. It could be someone we care about that could get hit by an impaired driver. A lot of people don't think about it until it happens to them," Grady said.

North Carolina has some of toughest drunk driving laws in the country, and they're working.

"When you look at the fatality rates in North Carolina compared to the rest of the nation, we're doing a very good job. However, we're not complacent. We're wanting to move ahead with this," saidN.C. Highway PatrolSgt. Jeff Winstead.

The Governor's Task Force on Driving While Impaired is looking at ways to make the laws even tougher. One is to lower the legal blood alcohol content of repeat offenders to .05.

Another idea is to ban open containers of alcohol in cars. If we do not ban them by October 2000, the state stands to lose $10 million in federal highway funds.

"That's a hunk of change in this state. I really don't think we want to give up those funds over something like this," saidN.C. MADDChairman Cheryl Jones.

Advocates for tougher laws hope this will be one incentive to pass them, but they say there are many others.

"So long as one person is dying at the hands of a drunk driver, it's entirely too many," said Winstead.

The state of Maine was the first to lower the legal blood alcohol content for repeat offenders to .05.

State police there say as a result, they are seeing fewer people drinking and driving a second time.

The Governor's Commission on DWI meets Friday morning. They expect to send their recommendations to theGeneral Assemblyby spring of 1999.