Annie’s Law would change how first-time drunk driver could get their licenses back

A man demonstrates the ignition interlock system.

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

For more than a year, her family has been battling to get ignition interlock, or Breathalyzer, devices put on vehicles of those convicted the first time of driving drunk.

Today lawmakers introduced that bill, called Annie’s Law, again.

It was pulled last September after legal groups objected. Now they say those hurdles have been addressed.

An ignition interlock is installed on vehicles if the driver has been convicted two or more times for drunk driving. The driver has to blow into a mouthpiece on the device, and be under the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, before the car will start.

Annie Rooney
Annie Rooney

The Rooney family says the hurt never goes away from the senseless death of their 36-year-old daughter Annie.

“We would not like anyone to ever go through what we have gone through,” said Dr. Richard Rooney, Annie’s father.

The Rooneys, working with lawmakers, say the ignition interlock device makes it harder for any convicted drunks to continue driving. Annie’s mother says they struggle every day with the battle to stop drunk driving.

“Yes you have to go on, you can’t quit, you want to quit many, many times,” said Carol Rooney, Annie’s mother.

They say they want laws tightened for everyone’s safety.

Judge and lawyer groups killed the bill back in September, concerned it limited their sentencing rules and could fill up the courts.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can address those issues that they’ve got,” said Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville.

He is one of the co-sponsors of HB 388.

The proposal makes a first-time drunk driver lose their driver’s license for 12 months unless the judge and driver agree to install a Breathalyzer. Then it’s for 6 months. The proposal also does away with rolling breath tests because of concerns over distracted drivers.

Annie’s sister says the battle to stem drunk driving will continue no matter how long.

“She is with me even though she is not here… she was a fighter, she taught me how to fight and we are fighting for her,” said Kate Rooney Lyaker.

This is the first of three statehouse hearings on Annie’s Law. Public testimony, including the Rooneys’, could be heard at the next hearing before the Ohio House Public Safety Committee.

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