July 4 is the most dangerous day of the year.


WASHINGTON — If you’re traveling this weekend, expect a lot of company. Nearly 42 million Americans plan to drive 50 miles or more from home — the most since before the Great Recession, finds AAA.

Drivers are urged to be careful. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Fourth of July is the most danger day of the year for drivers.

Annie Rooney was on her way home when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver on July 4, 2013
CBS News

Independence Day marks an all too painful anniversary for Walt Rooney. Two years ago his 36-year-old sister Annie — who used to prosecute DUI offenders — was on her way home when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

“Our Fourth of July is a visit to the cemetery and it’s horrific,” said Rooney. “It’s not a peaceful visit. It’s a traumatic, gut-wrenching visit to the cemetery. And it’s a horror that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

IIHS found between 2009 and 2013 — the year Annie died — 612 people died in crashes on the Fourth of July, 42 percent involved a drunk driver.

“I think July the Fourth is a day of celebration that often involves alcohol,” said Anne McCartt, a senior vice president for IIHS. “I think people are just in a lighter mood, they may be more likely to have other people in the car, maybe not paying close attention.”

CBS News

The Maryland State Police is adding about 100 extra officers to patrol the roads this holiday weekend. Trooper Marcus Holland will be looking for distracted and drunk drivers.

“The fact is one drink is too much,” said Holland.

The troopers we talked to say they expect DUIs to start ramping up in the afternoon Saturday and continue well into the night. IIHS found July 3 through July 5 are all in the top 15 most deadly days on the road.

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This entry was posted on May 24, 2016.

Ohio Lawmakers pass Annie’s Law, approving special devices in cars of OVI offenders

Ohio Lawmakers pass Annie’s Law, approving special devices in cars of OVI offenders

Annie Rooney
Annie Rooney

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Annie Rooney was killed in a head-on crash by a drunk driver back on July 4, 2013.

Her father Richard said since that tragic day, hundreds more Ohioan’s have died in crashes involved with drivers under the influence. All the while the public has waited on the law to change.

annies3 Ohio Lawmakers pass Annies Law, approving special devices in cars of OVI offendersToday, state lawmakers voted to put ignition interlock devices in vehicles of those convicted of driving under the influence.

The Rooney family has waited nearly three years for “Annie’s Law,” a law that allows judges to force anyone convicted of drunk driving to use an in-car breathalyzer.

“Our family’s world changed forever when on that July night we were visited by two patrolmen,” said Rooney.

Over the last two years the Rooneys, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, (MADD) and several lawmakers have fought to get Annie’s Law on the books.

“The thing I regret the most when we didn’t get it passed in 2014 is we continue to lose lives,” Rooney said.

ignition Ohio Lawmakers pass Annies Law, approving special devices in cars of OVI offendersThis law will include drivers with a first-time OVI. The device’s maker, Smart Start of Ohio, demonstrated the built-in safeguards where the driver is required to take multiple tests after the vehicle has been started. Along with that, a camera and GPS are synced with the ignition interlock device, that take pictures of the driver and alerts authorities to the vehicle’s location.

“The one type of homicide that is 100 percent preventable is the crime of impaired driving,” said John DiPietro, MADD state chair.

Rooney said he’s been told the device is a punishment or shaming device, but said it’s not, it’s a safety device.

He said one day he’ll meet Annie in heaven and his family wants to reassure her she did not die in vain.

“What happened to me and what did you do about it? Well, what we did about it is Annie’s Law,” Rooney said.

House Bill sponsor Rep. Gary Scherer (R) said they hope to have the law on the governor’s desk by the end of the year.

This entry was posted on May 24, 2016.

House Bill 388 Passes Ohio House


COLUMBUS – Want to drive after a drunken driving offense? Just blow into this breath-testing device.

First-time offenders convicted of operating a vehicle while under the influence could ask a judge to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles in exchange for a shorter driving suspension, under a proposal passed 84-5 by the Ohio House Wednesday.

Here’s how the device works: a driver exhales into it before starting the car. The vehicle won’t start if there is alcohol on the driver’s breath.

The bill, championed by Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, is called “Annie’s Law” for Annie Rooney, a Chillicothe lawyer killed in 2013 by a drunken driver. Her family first pushed for the change in 2014, but opposition from Ohio’s judges killed the bill.

“I wish we could have done it sooner. I wish the bill had even more teeth,” said Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott in Scioto County, a family friend of the Rooneys.

The new version is weaker than its predecessor, which would have required breath-test devices installed in every first-time offender’s car. Judges can already order ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders, like the driver who killed Rooney. But the proposal does provide incentives to drivers who seek out the option: judges could reduce offenders’ drivers license suspensions from one year to six months. The bill would increase possible driving suspensions from six months to three years to one year to five years.

Those caught driving impaired would pay for the device and its installation. Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimated the equipment costs between $70 and $150 to install and $60 to $80 per month to monitor and calibrate. Those too poor to pay would receive a reduced rate.

If passed, Ohio would become the 28th state to allow ignition interlock devices for first-time drunken drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports requiring interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers reduces repeat drunken driving by an average of 67 percent. Because the device would not be required in Ohio, any change would be less dramatic, but advocates say any increase in ignition interlock devices will help.

The bill would also eliminate yellow license plates, known as “party plates,” that certain convicted drivers were required to display. There was little evidence that the plates worked to deter drinking and driving, Scherer said.

Another change would extend the period of time that prosecutors examine to increase penalties for repeat drunken driving offenders from six years to 10 years. More than four convictions in that time period would mean an automatic felony.

The proposal heads to the Ohio Senate, which isn’t expected to vote on the bill until after the November election. Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, is working to get it passed before the end of of the year.

For the Rooney family, these changes are Annie’s legacy. She worked as a lawyer in the Cincinnati area and a prosecutor in Montana and Chillicothe before starting her own law practice. She painted, rode mountain bikes, herded bison and earned an award for “actress of the year” for performing in a high school play.

Her family believes that when they meet her in heaven, she will have two questions, her father, Dr. Richard Rooney, said Wednesday.

“We know that she will ask us, ‘What happened to me?’ and ‘What did you do about it?’ Well, what we did about it is Annie’s Law,” he said.

This entry was posted on May 24, 2016.

Ohio bill aims to curb drunken driving with ignition interlock

Annie Rooney

By Jim Siegel
The Columbus Dispatch
July 14, 2014

A bill requiring first-time DUI offenders in Ohio to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicles should see legislative action this fall.

But concerns about due process linger and could lead to some changes to the bill.

Current law allows judges to order use of the ignition interlocks, which require drivers to blow into a device that measures blood-alcohol levels before starting a vehicle. House Bill 469 would make it mandatory for first-time offenders, same as is now required for those convicted of DUI twice in six years.

Supporters, including the National Transportation Safety Board, gathered last week to encourage action on the bill, which would make Ohio the 23rd state to require the devices for first-time offenders. They call it a better option than a license suspension that is all too often ignored by violators.

Two decades of research has found that the devices reduce recidivism among DUI offenders by up to 75 percent, said Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The bill has had a few committee hearings, and Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, a joint sponsor, said he is disappointed it did not pass before the summer break. But movement could come quickly when lawmakers return this fall.

“This is a great bill,” said Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, adding he’s optimistic the committee will move it. “Some members of the committee have concerns, and I’ve been meeting with them and will continue throughout the summer to arrive at a place where everybody is comfortable.”

The devices would be used for first-time DUI offenders instead of prohibiting them from driving for 15 days and then obtaining limited driving privileges for work, school and medical appointments.

Jon Saia, a Columbus defense attorney specializing in DUI cases, likes that part of the bill. But he thinks the legislation has a major problem in that it would allow judges to impose ignition locks when a defendant charged with DUI ultimately pleads to a reduced charge. That, he said, would impose an alcohol-related punishment for a non-alcohol-related conviction.

“There is no way that’s going to pass muster,” he said.

And if a defendant is facing the possibility of paying $80 a month for the ignition lock device over six to 12 months even with a reduced charge, Saia thinks it will push more cases to trial.

Asked about concerns, Johnson said the bill would save lives.

“You can think something as complicated as this bill and what it will do into the ground…and lose sight of the simplicity of what it actually does,” he said.

Rep. Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, backs the bill but acknowledges there are due process concerns that may require some changes.

“The safety outweighs the due process for me,” Stinziano said. “I continue to look to other states where it’s been successful.”

The roughly $80-a-month cost of the device covers the cost of calibration. Saia also questions how much it would cost the state’s indigent defense fund for low-income defendants, though the state would qualify for a $688,000 federal grant to help pay for the law.

A driver must register a blood-alcohol content of less than .025 — less than half the .08 limit at which one is considered too intoxicated to drive — to turn the ignition.

The legislation has been named “Annie’s Law,” for 36-year-old Annie Rooney of Chillicothe, a prosecuting attorney who was killed in July 2013 by a drunken driver who had been arrested three times, with one conviction for DUI and two plea deals for lesser charges.

Her father, Dr. Richard Rooney, has pushed hard for the bill in an effort, he said, to ensure that his daughter did not die in vain. He points to statistics showing that as usage of ignition devices has risen, DUI fatalities have fallen.

“Our lives were shattered,” he said. “Annie’s memory has moved us to strengthen the law.”

Original article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/07/13/DUI_ignition.html

This entry was posted on July 14, 2014.

‘Annie’s Law’ pushed to prevent DUIs

Acting Chairman Hart was in Ohio this week to speak in support of House Bill 469, known as ‘Annie’s Law’. If passed, Annie’s Law would mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders in Ohio. While there, he met with members of Annie Rooney’s family.

National safety chairman touts ignition interlock requirements

Written by Jona Ison
Jul. 11, 2014

COLUMBUS — A proposed law that would require an ignition interlock device for all OVI offenders got a push Thursday from the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Chairman Christopher Hart flew into Columbus to offer support to Annie’s Law, which was inspired by the July 4, 2013, death of Chillicothe attorney Annie Rooney.

“Most Americans think we’ve solved the drunk driving problem. The fact is, we haven’t come close,” Hart said during a news conference at the statehouse.

In 2012, the National Traffic Safety Board recommended that all states adopt legislation to require ignition interlock devices for first-time drunken driving offenders. Ignition interlock devices require a person to exhale into it and it tests the breath for alcohol content. If it is above the device’s programmed limit, it prevents the vehicle from being started.

Annie Rooney was 36 when she was killed in the head-on crash by a woman who had prior drunken driving convictions. Annie’s family thinks that, if all convicted drunken drivers in Ohio were required to use an ignition interlock device, the crash wouldn’t have happened. The family has made it their goal to turn their tragedy into something meaningful.

Annie’s father, Dr. Rick Rooney, thinks Hart personally endorsing the bill is a turning point in the legislation and he, as well as co-sponsors Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, and Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, believe it will be pushed through to law during the lame duck session this fall.

“All the major players, all the organizations have come together in the same room and have expressed their enthusiastic endorsement (of Annie’s Law),” Rooney said. “For (Chris Hart) to come here and endorse this in a personal way, I find incredible.”

Between Hart’s endorsement and the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society’s endorsement, Rick Rooney thinks the Ohio State Medical Association also will back the bill.

Although there are several agencies coming behind the bill, news conference organizers MADD and Nationwide Insurance, Johnson and Rooney said they have had some push back and a lot of questions from the judiciary committee.

The two major issues Rooney said have been raised during MADD’s past attempts to get similar laws in place are views that the device is punishment and that judges are concerned about losing judicial discretion in sentencing. He relates the requirements to those he followed as a surgeon or that pilots follow to ensure public health and safety.

“Annie’s Law is about prevention, safety if you will, not punishing or shaming. … When it’s a safety issue, there shouldn’t be judicial discretion,” Rooney said.

Another concern is the workarounds to the device, such as it’s impossible for the current device to know for a fact the right person is blowing into it.

The device is made to be difficult to use without an hour of training, and it can come with a camera to snap a photo that is downloaded during monthly device checks, said Elizabeth Fink, regional public policy director for interlock company LifeSafer. The device also does random retesting after the vehicle has started.

Johnson acknowledged that the interlock device isn’t a “silver bullet” to removing all drunken drivers from Ohio’s roads, but pointed to statistics that show a reduction in both repeat offenders and reduced fatalities in states where they’ve been made mandatory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported people using interlock devices were 67 percent less likely to be rearrested for drunken driving than those who only had a license suspension.

Link to article: http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20140710/NEWS01/307100025/-Annie-s-Law-pushed-prevent-DUIs

Link to NTSB: http://www.ntsb.gov/index.html

This entry was posted on July 11, 2014.

Representative Johnson and Scherer speak at Annie’s Law Press Conference.

Legislation Seeks to Reduce Drunk Driving Re-Arrests, Save Lives

July 10, 2014

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) today held a press conference to discuss House Bill 469, also known as Annie’s Law, which works to prevent drunk driving re-arrests through the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs).

Annie’s Law, introduced in March, is sponsored by Representative Johnson and it would expand the use of ignition interlocks for first-time offenders, with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater, who seek driving privileges during a license suspension for a period of six months. Drivers must breathe into the breathalyzer system before attempting to drive in order to check blood-alcohol concentration.  The goal of the legislation is to decrease drunk driving re-arrest rates in the state and in turn reduce alcohol-related traffic accidents and fatalities.

The legislation is named after Annie Rooney, Representative Scherer’s constituent, who was killed by a drunk driver on July 4, 2013. Annie was traveling home when a drunken driver crossed into her lane on U.S. Route 50. Annie was 36-years-old and had served as a prosecuting attorney, even recently opening her own practice in Chillicothe.

“Annie lived a meaningful life. Although this legislation does not bring her back, it can make a meaningful and beneficial change in Ohio that Annie would be proud of,” Rep. Scherer said.

“Sadly stories similar to Annie happen far too often, “ Rep. Johnson said. “With this legislation in her name we have the opportunity to make Ohio’s roads a safer place to travel on.”

Additional participants in the press conference included Christopher Hart, Acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Doug Scoles, MADD Ohio State Executive Director, William “Bill” Windsor of Nationwide Insurance and Dr. Richard Rooney, Annie’s father.

Link here: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/terry-johnson/press/reps-johnson-and-scherer-discuss-annies-law-in-press-conference

This entry was posted on July 10, 2014.

All drunken drivers may be subject to in-car breathalyzer

By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday June 14, 2014

Ohio lawmakers are considering requiring first-time drunken-driving offenders to have an ignition breathalyzer installed on their cars to confirm their sobriety during a six-month penalty period.

The law now allows judges to order the ignition interlocks, but the House bill would make their use mandatory. Offenders convicted twice within six years must use the devices.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, cites federal figures that ignition-interlock devices reduce DUI re-arrest rates by 67 percent. About 25,000 first-time offenders are convicted each year in Ohio.

The devices would replace a system in which first-time DUI offenders are not allowed to drive for 15 days and then can obtain limited driving privileges to travel to work, school and medical appointments.

“There is nothing to ensure compliance and nothing to ensure sobriety unless they happen to get caught again,” Johnson said. “This allows the offender to continue working and to minimize disruption to his life while ensuring public safety to the extent we are reasonably able to do so.”

A change in the bill last week also would require those charged with DUI but convicted of lesser offenses, such as physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated, to install the machines in their cars.

Motorists convicted of DUI would lease the interlock devices, which cost $70 to $150 to install. A $60 to $90 monthly fee includes downloading data to see if a failed breath test prevented the car from starting.

Indigent drivers would be eligible for a free or discounted device from county alcohol-treatment funds.

Only about 5,000 Ohioans, including repeat DUI offenders, are required each year to use ignition interlocks, said Doug Scoles, executive director of Ohio MADD.

Twenty states now require their use by first-time offenders. “Requiring the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers will help prevent repeat offenses and, in so doing, save lives,” Scoles said.

The State Highway Patrol reports 341 people died in drunken-driving crashes last year. Seventy-seven people have been killed so far this year, 38 fewer that at the same time in 2012.

The bill is dubbed “Annie’s Law” in memory of Chillicothe lawyer Annie Rooney, who was killed last year by a drunken driver now serving eight years in prison. Her family has campaigned for passage of the bill.

Lara Baker-Morrish, chief prosecutor for the city of Columbus, calls the legislation “a very good idea.”

“It does curb the behavior we’re trying to get at, and it has been proven to save lives,” she said.

Courts would have to find ways to monitor the increase in ignition-interlock reports on drivers and find funding to ensure devices are made available to those who can’t afford installation and monitoring, she said.


Original article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/06/14/all-drunken-drivers-may-be-subject-to-safeguard.html

This entry was posted on June 14, 2014.

Annie’s Law won’t see vote until after Nov. election

Changes would expand breath-testing device in vehicles

By Jessie Balmert
June 4, 2014
Gannett News Service

Changes to a bill that would require breath-testing devices on certain drunken drivers’ vehicles made the proposal more strict but also delayed a vote until after the Nov. 4 election.

Annie Rooney

As introduced earlier this year, the bill would require ignition interlock devices be installed for first-time operating a vehicle while under the influence offenders. The devices require drivers to blow into a breath-tester, which calculates blood-alcohol concentration, and will prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver tests higher than the preset limit, usually 0.025.

People using ignition interlock devices were about 67 percent less likely to be rearrested than drivers with suspended licenses, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of 15 studies.

The devices are a deterrent for the more than 50 percent of convicted drunken drivers who continue to drive even with suspended licenses, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Current state law requires devices be installed for repeat drunken drivers. If approved, the bill would bring Ohio’s law in line with 22 other states, according to MADD.

Changes approved by committee Tuesday would require ignition interlock devices for people arrested on a charge of operating a vehicle while under the influence while they await trial. A judge also could request a device for people who received plea deals for lesser offenses, such as reckless operation, if the judge believed the person would be at risk of another operating a vehicle while under the influence charge.

The judiciary committee accepted the changes Tuesday but will not vote on the bill before the Ohio House of Representatives’ summer break, said Steven Alexander, legislative aide for the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott. That means the bill won’t see action until after the Nov. 4 election.

The proposed legislation is called Annie’s Law in memory of 36-year-old Annie Rooney, a Chillicothe attorney who died after a head-on collision with a drunken driver on July 4, 2013. The drunken driver, Shira Seymour, was sentenced to the maximum eight years in prison for Rooney’s death.

Twitter: @jbalmert

Original article: http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/news/2014/06/04/annies-law-wont-see-vote-until-after-nov-election/9993273/

Link to Mothers Against Drunk Driving: MADD: http://www.madd.org/

This entry was posted on June 4, 2014.