In May a 34-year-old Haverford man was arrested for the fourth time for drunken driving after he allegedly struck another vehicle with his pickup in Upper Darby and then fled.
When a police officer managed to stop the truck, the driver exited and was barely able to stand up, according to Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. The driver failed field sobriety tests.
"This guy is dangerous. Here's a guy who is drunk and has a several-thousand-pound vehicle behind him," Chitwood said.
According to court records, the driver has had three previous drunken-driving convictions dating back to 1998. However, he is by no means the first repeat DUI offender in Delaware County.
A 50-year-old Upper Darby man was facing his ninth and 10th DUI arrests, and a 39-year-old Ridley man was arrested for the ninth time for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2003, the year that Pennsylvania legislators lowered the legal limit of alcohol from 0.10 to 0.08 for drivers.
Since Sept. 30, 2003, drivers who have received a second or subsequent DUI violation are required to install ignition interlocks and keep them in place for a year.
Like a breathalyzer, the ignition interlock device, installed on the vehicle dashboard, measures alcohol concentration when the driver breathes into it. If the measurement exceeds the programmed blood alcohol concentration, the device prevents the engine from starting.
In order to stop someone other than the driver from providing a breath sample, the device requires breath samples randomly after the engine has started. If the sample is not provided or fails, an alarm is triggered and the ignition is turned off.
In 2006, Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and the number of states requiring all-offender ignition interlocks has grown from one to 25.
"As we continue to sound the drumbeat that high-visibility enforcement and ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers are the best ways to stop drunk driving, it is important to recognize that this issue continues to be a problem across the nation," said Jan Withers, national president of MADD.
According to officials at DrinkingAndDriving.org, 39 people per 10,000 are arrested for DUI and 2 people per 10,000 are killed by drunken drivers each year in Delaware County, based on 2005 statistics.
Statewide, alcohol-related crashes increased in 2012 to 11,956 from 11,805 in 2011, and deaths due to drunken driving decreased from 428 in 2011 to 404 in 2012 according to the Pennsylvania DUI Association.
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. John Rafferty Jr., R-44th of Collegeville, has proposed Senate Bill 1036, which would require all repeat and first-time offenders with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.10 or greater to install ignition interlocks.
We urge state legislators to seriously consider this bill in the fall.
While the ideal would be for anyone who has had a drink not to get behind the wheel, having a device to prevent a drunken driver from starting the car could prevent the injuries or deaths of hundreds of Pennsylvanians each year.
Daily Local News of West Chester