fatal alcohol-related auto accidents. In the last year alone, Louisiana State University found 288 people died in car accidents involving a drunk driver.

Fortunately, the numbers have been dropping over the past five years: fatal car accidents involving alcohol decreased by 34 percent and accidents involving injuries decreased by 17 percent. However, the dismal ranking demonstrates further action must be taken to reduce accidents. The governor has responded by signing six bills to deal with drunk driving.

Current law for a driver’s third DWI conviction requires the driver’s license to be suspended for three years. New measures will allow judges to order an ignition interlock system be installed in the offender’s car. The judge can also restrict the offender’s license after 45 days if he or she is in good standing and participates in alcohol or drug courts.

Another bill allows drugs in the driver’s system to be factored in when considering vehicular homicide. In addition, law enforcement officials can now test for both drug impairment and drunkenness.

As the first two DWIs are considered misdemeanors, one lawmaker says not enough drivers take their arrest seriously until they are arrested for the third time and convicted of a felony. This will be rectified by one of the provisions in the new bill, mandating 30 days in prison if two DWIs take place in the same year.

The new bills may contribute to the steady decline of car accidents involving alcohol in Louisiana if drivers take the harsher penalties more seriously. A car accident can change the lives of everyone involved and leaves an emotional strain on the loved ones of someone killed in a crash. Instead of dealing with their emotional pain, family members may be concerned with funeral expenses or loss of source of income. They can file a personal injury lawsuit against the offending driver to recover these costs in addition to those for pain and suffering.

Source: The Associated Press, “Louisiana lawmakers crack down on drunken drivers,” Sheila V. Kumar, June 13, 2012