A bill that would put some potential rehabilitative measures in place for repeat drunk driving offenders offers a measure of accountability and empathy that could spark change in Pennsylvania.
New legislation — Senate Bill 773 — is designed to significantly increase penalties for drivers with multiple DUI convictions. It would force anyone convicted of a third DUI to serve a sentence consecutive to any other sentence imposed, which would increase a violator’s time in jail. There would also be increased penalties for those convictions for drivers with higher blood alcohol levels.
The bill passed the state Senate 43-6; it now heads to the House.
Those increased penalties are notable and, we hope, present enough punitive measures to make drivers think twice. Perhaps the best addition would be the creation of a court-administered sobriety monitoring program, similar to the one that has reduced recidivism of DUI by 90 percent in York County.
According to the Delaware County Times, the bill would mandate “statewide use of “continuous alcohol monitoring” devices, also known as CAM (or “SCRAM” for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor). These devices are affixed to offenders in the same manner as electronic home monitoring devices, but sample and test the wearer’s perspiration for the presence of alcohol. If the device senses alcohol in the wearer’s system, a signal is transmitted to a monitoring agency that can notify police to detain the person before they drive in the hopes of averting another tragedy.”
Violators would pay the cost of the program and could also face random drug testing as directed by the courts for at least 90 days.
Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman killed by a five-time drunk driver whose pickup truck crossed the double yellow line and slammed head-on into the car that she and her husband were in, is the inspiration for the bill. The pickup driver was on probation for one of his convictions at the time of the crash.
Would this new monitoring have prevented the crash that killed Eckman? It is impossible to say. But it could save someone. York saw a 90 percent decline in DUI recidivism within the first year of introducing CAM devices and a 21 percent drop in DUI fatalities over three years, according to state Sen. Thomas Killion, SB 773’s sponsor.
This measure could offer repeat violators the opportunity to turn the page on troubled pasts, presenting a level of accountability not seen in previous punishments.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.