Saturday, November 28, 2015

State Lawmakers Trying to Combat Troubling Rise In Drunk Driving
by Kirk Hawkins
by Terrance Walker, Photojournalist

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--A memorial outside Craig Marek's Matthews home is a constant reminder of a birthday he will never forget. "You gotta keep moving forward but you don't want to forget the past,"
Marek said. On that day, in 2006, his son Ian was killed by a drunk driver. "It just seemed so unnatural to deal with the life of a child," said Marek.

Marek's experience is becoming all too common in North Carolina. In 2011, Mothers Against Drunk Driving North Carolina says there were 365 alcohol related incidents. In 2012, there were 413. A 13 percent increase.

In order to combat the troubling rise, state lawmakers are debating three new bills aimed at placing tighter restrictions on DWI offenders. One bill would expand a zero tolerance law to all DWI offenders with restricted licenses. Another bill would require ignition interlock systems for all DWI offenders, not just repeat offenders. A third bill allows prosecutors to file felony habitual charges
against anyone previously convicted of a DWI. "I think it's long overdue," said East Charlotte Resident Nancy Edwards. Edwards lost her daughter Jenny to a drunk driver. She says these strict rules are important. "To make sure that they know that we are serious and if we don't have the laws,
they aren't going to do anything about it," Edwards said.

While he's encouraged by changes coming from the State Capitol, Craig Marek says his friends are already taking drinking and driving very seriously. A decision that changed his family forever.
"You realize that it's just not worth it. It really isn't," said Marek.

The Zero Tolerance and Habitual Charges bills will move on to the North Carolina Senate. The Ignition Interlock bill is in committee.