New law gives family of DUI victim hope - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New law gives family of DUI victim hope

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Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- With the New Year, comes a new law that puts a shorter leash on drunk drivers.

Now, first time, DUI offenders in Tennessee convicted of having a blood alcohol level of at least .15, will be required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their cars.

The new law is geared toward preventing drunk driving and the risks that follow.

For one Chattanooga family, the initiative hits close to home.

Susan Wood's sister says she hopes this new legislation will spare another family from the grief her own family has experienced over the last year.

"Of course there's a void there that can't be filled," says Karen Duncan.

It was this time last year, Karen Duncan buried her 42-year-old sister after she was struck and killed by 24-year-old Jeremy Lane, who police say smelled of alcohol at the time of his arrest.

"So many of these offenders are repeat offenders and they just, a slap on the wrist here and there," says Duncan.

That's why Duncan and her family are thrilled about the new DUI legislation that went into effect January 1st.

"I think if that law can save even one person's life, then it's worth doing," says Duncan.

Before the new law took effect, Tennessee drivers could get a second DUI conviction and still avoid having an ignition interlocking device installed in their car.

As of New Year's Day, even first time offenders will be required to.

"At least maybe this way it'll slow them down," says Duncan.

Drivers have to have been convicted with a blood alcohol level of .15. The ignition interlock will require a convicted driver to blow into the device in order to start the car.

"My sister loved Christmas and she loved snow," says Duncan. "So this year, the snow at Christmas, I kind of felt like maybe that was sent for us."

Getting through the one-year anniversary of her baby sister's death and the holidays at once was difficult for Duncan.

"So we have to try to take something negative and bring something positive to it," says Duncan.

For her, and her family, this new law is one more step in the right direction.

"If one person will think about her before they get behind the wheel intoxicated and maybe save someone's life, then maybe her death won't have been in vain," says Duncan.

According to statistics by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the average drunk driver has driven 87 times before their first arrest.

An ignition interlock is about the size of a cell phone. It's wired into a vehicle's ignition. If the driver has a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the car won't start.

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