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D.C. Gets Tougher on Drunken Driving

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Tom Sherwood, NBCWashington.com

    Drunken driving enforcement is getting tougher in the District.

    The city is using a new and improved machine to test drivers’ breath, and now even first-offenders could be forced to use ignition-lock safety devices to start their cars.

    A technologically advanced machine replaces faulty equipment that forced the city to abandon breath tests two years ago.

    At a news conference of politicians, police and prosecutors at the city's morgue, Mayor Vincent Gray signed legislation approving the new test and the legislation that could force first offenders to use ignition lock devices.

    “And it will allow them to drive that vehicle, go to work, support their family, do the things that they need to do but do it in a safe manner,” said Lucinda Babers of the D.C. DMV.

    The city says about 1,800 people could be subject to the ignition lock system each year.

    Fines also are going up for drunk drivers who have children in the car.

    “There's nothing more heart-breaking for a police officer then to respond to the scene of a crash where there is a child, an innocent child victim,” Assistant Chief of Police Peter Newsham said.

    “And we won't tolerate irresponsible adults who put their children's lives at risk,” D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said.

    About 1,400 people were arrested last fall in a crackdown from Halloween through the holidays – the busiest drunken driving period for city police.