‘Annie’s Law’ lobbying begins

Bill sponsor testifies at House hearing

Mar. 20, 2014
Gannett News Service
Written by The Gazette staff

COLUMBUS — Discussion on a proposed law named for a local attorney killed in a drunk driving crash began Wednesday and will continue today as Mothers Against Drunk Driving representatives meet with lawmakers.

One of the sponsors for Annie’s Law, House Bill 469, Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, offered testimony during an initial judiciary hearing at the state House of Representatives, outlining a need for an increased use of ignition interlock devices for all drunken drivers. He noted that the National Transportation Safety Board recommends it.

“Part of the reason we introduced this bill is because we do not believe enough first-time offenders are required to use this device. According to the Newark Advocate, in 2013, the Ohio Highway Patrol cited more than 24,000 people with operating a vehicle while under the influence, but only 2,407 people were using ignition interlock devices in July. Frankly, this is far too few,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the Centers for Disease Control has reported the device, which requires a driver to breathe into it before the car will start, has been effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses. Currently, 20 states, including West Virginia, require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.

“House Bill 469 will eliminate the 15-day hard suspension and replace the needlessly complex and unenforceable system of regulating who can drive when and where by implementing a simpler system where an offender can drive anywhere anytime so long as they use the IID. This allows the offender to continue working and to minimize disruption to his life while ensuring public safety to the extent that we are reasonably able to do so. In short, it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.

The bill is the result of efforts started by Annie Rooney’s family, especially her siblings, that began soon after the July 4 crash that killed her. The family connected with MADD as part of its efforts and Johnson, a family friend, as it sought sponsors for the legislation, which also is sponsored by Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville.

“Annie’s entire family is focused on preventing another family from going through this senseless, preventable, loss of life on our roads,” said Walt Rooney, Annie’s brother. “Drunk drivers kill hundreds of Ohioians every year just like Annie, and we must do more to stop them. Drunk driving is a public health crisis and we are focused on standing with our legislators to have Ohio join the over 20 states that have made ignition interlocks mandatory for first time offenders.”

Link to original article: http://www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20140319/NEWS01/303190025/-Annie-s-Law-lobbying-begins

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