Michigan legislators are going on the offensive against the state’s worst drunk drivers, pushing two measures aimed at cracking down on repeat offenders and people who drive extremely drunk, reports the Detroit News. One proposal seeks to abolish the practice of wiping convicted drunken drivers’ records clean if 10 years have passed since their last offense. The other measure targets people caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or above, which is almost double the legal threshold of 0.08. It calls for offenders to undergo mandatory alcohol treatment and to use an in-car device called an ignition interlock that checks their body for alcohol every time they get behind the wheel for one year. “What we are doing is not working,” said Rep. Daniel Acciavatti. “The average drunk driver (in Michigan) is .15. That’s scary, in my opinion.”
An estimated one-third of those cnvicted each year are repeat offenders. Alcohol-related crashes were responsible for 8,000 injuries and 416 deaths statewide last year, although the total has been declining. It typically takes a 170-pound man about seven drinks on an empty stomach in one hour to reach a blood-alcohol level of 0.15; it takes a 137-pound woman about five drinks on an empty stomach in one hour to get to 0.15. One bill, dubbed “Heidi’s Law,” was inspired by Heidi Steiner, who was killed at age 16 in a crash involving Daniel Buffman, who was drunk at the time. Buffman had a string of alcohol-related offenses and was sentenced to prison for Steiner’s death. When he got out nearly 10 years later, he was arrested for drunken driving. Under state guidelines, he was charged as though it was his first offense and was sentenced to 93 days in jail, the maximum for a first-time offender.