Mississippi tackles beefing up DUI Laws

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- It's been talked about for months, but now Mississippi has taken a step to crack down on what happens when drivers drink and get behind the wheel.

If you drink and drive in Mississippi a proposed law could stop you in your tracks.

Bills making their way through the House and Senate this week would make ignition interlock devices mandatory for DUI offenders, preventing them from starting a vehicle if alcohol is detected.

Many in North Mississippi told WREG it's about time.

"If you really put stiff laws out there, people will think twice about doing it," said Karen McAllister of Southaven.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said the law puts Mississippi in the driver's seat among states cracking down.

It said while many states, like Tennessee, have interlock systems, judges aren't enforcing their use.

"That's why this bill is so crucial. It will feature more interlock installation and as a result there will be less drunk drivers on the roadway," said Frank Harris, MADD's Director of State Government Affairs.

The group said ignition interlocks have prevented drunk drivers from starting their vehicle almost 3,000 times in just one year.

With recent cases of deadly DUI crashes, many said ignition interlocks can only help.

"Two teenagers recently died too from the same thing. So I think it is definitely needed," said Velma Purkett of Southaven.

A deadly crash last summer in Marshall County, Mississippi  killed two Briarcrest High School students.

Melandus Penson, who hit their vehicle, was a multiple DUI offender.

Different departments never communicated about his pending charges and convictions, so he was still behind the wheel.

The Mississippi bill would have agencies share their data base.

"It's up to the state of Mississippi to continue to show leadership as well as any other agency to make sure all of this information is being collected and shared on a statewide basis at least with prosecutors," said Harris.

If passed, the bills could put Mississippi on the road to getting a handle on a huge problem.

The Mississippi law would also provide an Interlock Device Fund for the indigent who can't afford to pay for an Ignition Interlock System.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.