On Tuesday November 1, 2011 new DUI Laws go into effect in Oklahoma. Senate bill number 529, otherwise known as the Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act , significantly strengthens consequences for drunk driving.
Erin Swezey was an Oklahoma University student who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. The drunk driver had previous DUI convictions, was driving the wrong way on the Turnpike, and had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.29 – more than three times the legal limit.
The Act strongly supports the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) and focuses primarily on multiple offenders and those with high BAC levels of 0.15 or higher. In addition to combinations of fines, community service and/or treatment the following license revocation and interlock installation periods apply:
First Time Revocation – BAC <0.15 or Refused Test
6 month license revocation, but they can get driving privileges immediately with the installation of an IID.
First Time Revocation – BAC >=0.15
6 month license revocation, but they can get driving privileges immediately with the installation of an IID. Upon conclusion of the revocation period they are required to have an IID installed for 1 ½ years or until their license is reinstated , whichever is longer. Up to a 6 month credit for the required period of IID use is available for those that install during the revocation period.
12 month license revocation with mandatory interlock installation for the revocation period. Upon conclusion of the revocation period they are required to have an IID installed for 3 years or until their license is reinstated, whichever is longer. Up to a 12 month credit for the required period of IID use is available for those that install during the revocation period.
3rd or Subsequent Revocation
3 year license revocation with mandatory interlock installation for the revocation period. Upon conclusion of the revocation period , they will be required to install an IID for 5 years or until their license is reinstated, whichever is longer. Up to a 3 year credit for the required period of IID use is available for those that install during the revocation period.
If an ignition interlock is required for driving privileges, the driver must receive a replacement license bearing the words “Interlock Required” on the face of the license for as long as they are required to have an ignition interlock device.
- Interlocks can only work when they are installed. According to the NHTSA between 60% and 80% of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive. Without the restriction of an interlock they could be driving drunk. Long term revocations with no interlock options can lead people to taking the risk of driving on suspension which can lead to additional fines, legal issues, and possible drunk driving offenses. Interlocks help protect everyone. This Act allows individuals to get back on the road quickly, legally and safely so that they can maintain employment and family/societal obligations. Multiple recent studies show that interlocks can reduce DUI recidivism by up to 90% while they are installed (Voas & Marques, 2003; Willis et al., 2005; Vezina, 2002; Tippetts & Voas, 1997; Coben & Larkin, 1999).
- Focus on hardcore drunk drivers. In 2009, 70% of drivers involved in drunk driving fatalities had a BAC level of .15 or higher – a trend that has remained relatively unchanged for more than a decade (NHTSA/FARS, 2010). By making Ignition Interlocks driving privileges available immediately for those with high BAC levels and multiple-offenses, this Act puts an ignition interlock between them and the ability to drive after consuming alcohol, which is safer for them and the communities they live in.
- Behavioral change takes time. This Act also takes into account that it takes time and effort to change behaviors. Longer mandatory IID installation periods in conjunction with treatment programs for multiple-offenders starts to address the need for and support behavioral change.
Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, once estimated that if widely used ignition interlocks could save as many as 9000 lives each year by preventing impaired drivers from taking the road. An article posted on the Erin Swezey Act home page quotes Representative Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City as saying, “Arizona has a similar law and they’ve reduced drunk driving deaths by 46 percent. I know we will save lives in Oklahoma as well.” With the implementation of the Erin Swezey Act Oklahoma makes great strides in following DUI law best practices similar to states like Washington and New Mexico. We hope more states follow their lead, because if we could cut the annual 10,000+ alcohol related deaths by 46% – it would be an amazing testimonial to just how much safer ignition interlocks make all of our roads and communities.