Tennessee Puts the Smack Down on First-Time DUI

Tennessee Puts the Smack Down on First-Time DUI

Tennessee's drunk driving laws gave first-time offenders a wake up call, with mandatory 48 hour jail time and costs of around $4,900 for towing, bail, attorney, high risk insurance, court costs, school, and reinstatement fees.

This year, Tennessee upped the ante for first time DUI'ers. Ignition interlock devices were an optional penalty for first-timers, with the penalty usually reserved for repeat offenders. Ignition interlock requires the driver to blow into a tube to demonstrate sobriety before the car can start.

As we read it, the new law requires ignition interlock for all first-time DUI offenders.

Reminds us of lyrics from punk band Black Flag's tune "Drinking and Driving":

Party down, party down
Drinkin' til you can't even see
Fill your car with your buddies
And wrap it around a tree

The new law requires cameras on the devices. Previously, one way for a drinker to get around an interlock device and drive home was to have a sober friend blow to start the car. Cameras will make it more difficult for a drunk driver to start the car.

Although we applaud the effort to rid the road of drunk drivers, the new law has a potentially unfortunate consequence. The cost of the interlock may force average Tennesseans to drive illegally without a driver's license.

An interlock currently costs around $1,000 a year. We suspect the price with the newly-required camera will be higher. With average household income in Tennessee at $52,762 per the 2010 US Census, the cost for a first-time DUI'er may lead many to surrender their driver's licenses and drive illegally.

Eliminating drunk driving would be great for Tennessee. Making more Tennesseans drive illegally is not as great.

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