HARRISBURG – Parents of children killed by repeat drunk drivers made a plea to Pennsylvania lawmakers Tuesday to toughen the state’s DUI laws.
Parents Against Impaired Driving gathered at the state Capitol with photographs of children killed in DUI crashes, many caused by repeat offenders.
They want legislators to approve proposals with harsher penalties including Senate Bill 270, which would require convicted drunk drivers with blood-alcohol levels of 0.10 or greater to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months.
Another measure, Senate Bill 839, would increase the penalty for killing a person while DUI when the driver has more than two prior offenses in the last 10 years.
Senate Bill 839 was authored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, after the death of 18-year-old Meredith Demko in July 2014, just days after her graduation from Lampeter-Strasburg High School. The driver who hit the teen’s car had a previous DUI conviction three years earlier.
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“If you commit a retail theft at Wal-Mart and you take a pen three times, three different occasions, that is a felony 3 under the laws of Pennsylvania,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. “You commit four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, infinite number of DUIs, it still remains a misdemeanor unless you kill somebody, and then it’s too late.”
A study last year found Pennsylvania among the states most lenient on drunk drivers. WalletHub compared DUI laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, such as jail time for first and second offenses, and ranked Pennsylvania 49th out of 51.
Paul and Elaine Miller, the parents of former Loganville fire chief Rodney Miller, joined the group in calling for harsher penalties.
Rodney Miller was struck and killed by a DUI driver who went around traffic and into a closed lane of Interstate 83 after a previous crash in April 2013. The driver had served prison time for two prior DUI offenses.
“If there are any naysayers that don’t think we need to strengthen our laws to effectively deal with repeat DUI offenders, I would just like to ask that you take a couple of seconds and visualize your son or your daughter in a casket, and you’re about to bury them as a result of a DUI offender,” Paul Miller said.