Drunk Driving: Big proposals at the state level and small ideas are trying to keep you safer

CLEVELAND - People in Ohio are dying every day from drunk drivers. In fact, in 2012, 385 people lost their lives from drunk driving accidents in our state.

That's more than one per day, and that doesn't even cover the people who are severely hurt for the rest of their lives.

We are on your side with new information about products and proposals that are hoping to combat this ongoing issue.

Wednesday afternoon, advocates for a bill called "Annie's Law" testified in Columbus supporting new, more stringent regulations.

Annie Rooney went to high school in Hudson, was a beautiful, young attorney, and a victim of a drunk driver near Chillocothe last July.

"The car was virtually crushed on her,” said Annie’s father Richard Rooney.

"I would hate to see another family ever have to go through this," said her mother Carole Rooney during a recent interview.

The Rooney family including Annie's brother Walter is meeting with Ohio lawmakers in Columbus, showing them pictures of Annie, and pushing for support of House Bill 469. It would advance alcohol intervention and require ignition interlocking systems be installed in convicted drunk drivers' cars, including first time offenders.

The company Lifesafer demonstrated its device for us at the state capitol building. The car won't start unless you are safe to drive.

The device is designed to know if the offender is the one who is actually doing the test. "You have to blow a very specific way,” said Lifesafer Account Manager Elizabeth Fink. “And a lot of the units have the camera mounted up here. It has facial recognition," Fink explained.

If Annie's Law is passed, Ohio would be the 21st state to enact these kinds of requirements for drunk drivers.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reported drunk driving deaths in Arizona dropped 43 percent, Oregon 42 percent and West Virginia 33 percent with many more successes after interlocking device laws went into place.

And that's not all in the recent fight against DUIs.  Various companies are marketing over-the-counter breathalyzers.

We had people at the Clevelander bar try out four different versions that are either app-based or stand-alones. 

The readings came out varied from .03 to .15, but the guys at the bar said the devices could still be useful.

"Hopefully, it would be used as a tool for those who have drunk too much to not drive as opposed to enabling those to decide to drive," said bar patron Kevin Sigg.

"I am so glad that someone is giving me a ride home,” said Mark Carter, who tested the devices after drinking at the bar.

Bryan Kranek nearly died after getting hit by a drunk driver 10 years ago while rollerblading. He smashed his head on the windshield and had a terrible brain injury. "Before I went into surgery, (doctors) pretty much told my parents to say goodbye," Kranek told us.

He went on to say he hopes the over-the-counter breathalyzers don't give people a false sense of security, that cops have their own breathalyzers, and the risk of drinking and driving at all is just not worth it.

"I pretty much know for a fact I'm going to get Alzhiemers,” said Kranek about his injuries after the accident.  “That scares the crap out of me."

Meanwhile, the Rooneys are scared that if Annie's Law is not passed, there will be more victims.

"It's too late for Annie,” said Carole. “But we want everybody to think about this because it can happen to you," she added.

Two things to keep in mind: over-the-counter breathalyzers won't stand up in court.

Police calibrate their own devices and that's what will be used against you.

And if you are in support of Annie's Law, then contact your state lawmakers right away. Here’s a link that makes it easy to fill out a letter and send it to your politician.

We'll be following the progress of the law and keep you up to date.

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