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'Leandra's Law,' and Ignition Locks for all DUIs in New York

Monday, August 16, 2010 - 08:24 AM

The crash was fit for a rallying cry.  On October 11, 2009, Carmen Huertas was driving six children to her house for a slumber party.  She had been drinking, and, one of the kids in the car said, asked her young passengers to raise their hands if they thought "we're gonna get into an accident."

Huertas did crash the car, and the result was the death of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado.  As he grieved, her father started a campaign to make New York state's laws the toughest in the nation.  A month later, a new law was unanimously passed in Albany, and signed by the governor.

"Leandra's Law" as its now called, makes it a felony to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs while carrying passengers age 15 and under.  It went into effect statewide on Sunday.  UCLA transportation scholar Eric A. Morris says it does something even more important, however.

It requires any driver convicted of DWI to install an ignition interlock system on any car they drive.

The device, which the driver must pay for, requires them to take a breathalizer-like test, linked to the starter on the car. If the system detects alcohol, the car won't start.

"The interlock devices have an extremely low penalty -- no police, courts, or jail time for trying to drive drunk, just not being able to drive," Morris said.  "Yet they've been shown to be highly effective in preventing recidivism."

Morris is researching away in Southern California, but he's also a contributor to the Freakonomics blog.  His recent series on DUI uncovers some dark truths of how many drive under the influence, and how few get caught-- Collin Campbell

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