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Rally shows support for tougher Montana DUI laws

HELENA, Mont. – Supporters of tougher laws in the fight against driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs gathered in front of the Capitol on Tuesday.

The rally included members from three Montana DUI Task Forces, Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney, and Attorney General Tim Fox.

Supporters offered recommendations on ways to reduce DUIs.

Those recommendations included initiating and funding DUI checkpoints; requiring ignition interlocks or close monitoring of first-time DUI offenders; and the ability for citizens to track court cases involving misdemeanor DUIs.

Members of the DUI Law Committee also suggested allowing police to obtain an electronic warrant for a blood sample when first-time offenders refuse a breathalyzer test.

Funding from an increase in the state beer tax from 1.4 cents per 12-ounce can to 5 cents, in order to fund enforcement efforts, was also discussed.

Ronald Yates, DUI Law Community chairman, said, “I’m convinced that Montanans know we have a problem, but don’t really realize how bad the problem is, and the solutions that are quite doable. We really want to change the culture of drinking and driving in Montana.”

The website ZeroDUIdeaths provides the following information:

Based on data from 2016, Montana had the highest DUI deaths/alcohol-impaired driving fatality percentage. With 45 percent of deadly crashes involving at least one driver whose blood alcohol content was higher than the legal limit of 0.08. In 2016, of the 187 fatalities on Montana roads, 66 were DUI deaths and 55 involved drugs, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.

Currently, the first three DUIs that a person receives are considered misdemeanors in most cases.

Story by Mercedies Pruneda, MTN News

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