COLUMBUS — Legislation that would enable first-time drunken drivers to get behind the wheel of vehicles equipped with breathalyzers is positioned to move through the Ohio Senate before the end of the year.
HB 388 had its first hearing in the Senate’s Insurance Committee Tuesday, with additional hearings expected in coming weeks. Committee Chairman Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) said he hoped to recommend the bill for a full floor vote early next month.
HB 388 would provide a mechanism in state law for residents convicted of their first operating while intoxicated offense to petition courts for unlimited driving privileges, so long as their vehicles are equipped with certified ignition interlock devices.
The units require drivers to blow into them to start the vehicle, checking their blood alcohol content in the process. Cars wouldn’t start if drivers had too much to drink.
Existing law allows judges to grant restricted driving privileges to OVI offenders, enabling them to commute to workplaces or schools. Judges also are able to order the use of ignition interlocks, but proponents say HB 388 would expand their use in the state.
Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville), the primary sponsor of the measure, told the Senate’s Insurance Committee Tuesday that the state’s existing system for allowing limited driving privileges is ineffective.
“The Centers for Disease Control found that IIDs are effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses by 67 percent,” he said. “House Bill 388 will eliminate the 15-day hard suspension and replace the needlessly complex and unenforceable system of regulating who can drive when and where by implementing a simpler system where an offender can drive anywhere anytime so long as they use the IID.”
The legislation is named Annie’s Law, in memory Annie Rooney, a 36-year-old attorney from the Chillicothe area who was killed by a drunken driver in 2013. The latter had been arrested multiples times prior for drunken driving.
Backers of the bill, including Rooney’s father and other family members and representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have spoken in favor of the legislation during committee hearings and press conferences at the Statehouse.
The bill passed the Ohio House on a lopsided vote in May. Lawmakers would have to finalize the bill in December, before the end of the current general assembly.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.