Homework Assignment Inspires DUI Bill
By: Gerri Elder
A Pennsylvania legislator met at the state Capitol on October 7, 2008 and stood with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) representatives to press for a revision of state DUI laws.
According to a report by the Bulletin, Paul Clymer has introduced legislation that would require mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders.
Ignition interlock devices are hard-wired into the vehicle's ignition switch. Drivers must blow into the ignition interlock device and pass a breath test in order to start the car.
If the device detects a blood alcohol content higher than .025 percent, the vehicle will not start. Some ignition interlock devices also require that the driver pull over from time to time for another blood alcohol check.
The cost of the installation and regular calibration of ignition devices is the responsibility of the DUI offender. The state bears no responsibility for this expense. This means that in addition to fines, court costs and lawyer's fees, DUI offenders who are required to have the devices installed will have to come up with some additional cash in order to keep driving.
Currently, Pennsylvania state law does not require ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders. The devices are required after second-offense Pennsylvania DUI convictions.
Clymer's idea for the new legislation came from a 14-year-old boy.
For a homework assignment, Brad Vassallo wrote a letter to his state legislator advocating changes in the current Pennsylvania DUI laws. The Quakertown Community High School sophomore was required to write a persuasive letter to make the grade, but decided to go the extra mile and follow up with an e-mail and an in-person visit.
After receiving Vassallo's letter and e-mail, Clymer met with him and suggested that he send a petition for a change in the state DUI law to state House of Representatives Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph Markosek.
Vassallo says that he was genuinely interested in pursuing the cause and was able to gather 700 signatures on his petition within two months. After receiving the petition, Mr. Markosek held a House Transportation Committee meeting on the subject at Quakertown Community High School.
Clymer says that he expects the measure inspired by Vassallo to gather wide support and gain momentum, although it has not come up for a vote in committee yet. The legislation will need to move quickly out of the panel and through the entire legislature if it is to become law before the conclusion of the General Assembly session at the end of the year.
If passed, DUI convictions in Pennsylvania will become a much more expensive ordeal for first time offenders, and teen Brad Vassallo will have many adoring MADD fans.