FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky Rep. Dennis Keene has filed legislation to toughen Kentucky’s DUI laws, and he’s confident this is the year his bill will pass.
House Bill 286 would require people convicted of drunk driving to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles that would test a driver’s breath before allowing the engine to start.
"This is just a simple bill that will save lives," Keene said in a phone interview. "States that have imposed the interlock system have cut drunk-driving deaths in their states by 33 percent."
This marks the fourth consecutive year that Keene has tried to get the legislation enacted. It has passed the Kentucky House each year but has died in the state Senate.
He said he's confident this will be the year it passes because of a new federal law that took effect Oct. 1, 2012. The federal law requires states to mandate ignition interlock devices or risk losing federal highway funds. It also established a grant program that allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide additional money to states that adopt the laws.
Keene said the cost of an alcohol interlock device is about $3 to $4 per day. Keene’s legislation would require that cost to be paid by the convicted offenders – not state taxpayers. It also would charge those who pay a little extra money to establish a fund for indigent convicts who can't afford the devices. Keene said that most people who are indigent don't have cars, though, so he suspects that fund won't be used much.
Keene’s daughter Kelly Keene Jones nearly died in a drunk driving accident in 2002. He has since become an outspoken advocate for tougher DUI laws.
"Drunk drivers don't go out and say I'm going to go out and try to kill Kelly Keene today. They don't know who Kelly Keene is," he said. "Interlock will stop a lot of those repeat offenders from getting behind the wheel and making those bad decisions."
Keene is a Wilder Democrat who represents the state’s 67th District, which includes the Campbell County communities of Dayton, Bellevue, Newport, Wilder, Southgate, Woodlawn and part of Highland Heights.
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