HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania will be handling those who are convicted of their first driving under the influence offense differently.
On Friday, the state’s new ignition interlock law went into effect.
The law says that first-time DUI offenders with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 or higher will have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle.
“Act 33 is smart on crime and is a life-saving measure,” said Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County.
Previously, DUI laws in Pennsylvania called for a one-year license suspension for a first-time DUI offender with a BAC over 0.10.
Rafferty, who introduced the legislation, said that did little to stop offenders from driving.
On Thursday, some people who lost loved ones because of a DUI crash stood with Rafferty as he talked about the legislation. Chris Demko’s daughter, Meredith, was killed when she was 18 years old.
“She was driving home from the YMCA at about 2 in the afternoon when an individual who was drunk, high on heroin, a repeat DUI offender, and driving on a suspended license, crashed into her and killed her,” Demko said.
Demko, who is from Lancaster County, has been pushing for tougher DUI laws since the death of his daughter.
“Anytime someone is prevented via the interlock from driving while drunk, another potential death or injury is prevented,” Demko said.
Those who have to use the interlock system can expect to pay about $1,000.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said other states that have used similar systems have seen a decrease in DUIs by about 40 percent.
“Last year there was an average of almost 10 lockouts for every ignition interlock installed in Pennsylvania,” he said. “That is crazy. It’s offensive, but it works and this will work.”