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Tennessee drivers on meds likely next DUI targets

Tennessee lawmakers revealed this week that the next incremental step in the state's effort to crack down on impaired driving is likely to focus on individuals who choose to drive while under the influence of prescription medications.

Members of the House subcommittee that handles the laws that lead to drunk driving charges suggest that is the next logical step to take on the road to eventually trying to lower the legal blood alcohol content level to 0.05 percent.

They made their comments at a news conference held by Mothers Against Drunk Driving this week to mark the governor's signing of a batch of bills from the most recent session. The stack included one bill that requires drivers convicted of driving under the influence to install ignition interlock technology in their vehicles before they can drive on their restricted licenses.

If a driver attempts to get behind the wheel with anything over a 0.02 percent BAC, the device prevents ignition. The system also takes a picture of the operator to prevent possible efforts to get around the lock. That measure takes effect July 1.

At the MADD news conference comments centered on next possible steps. Lawmakers said that while lowering the BAC to 0.05 percent will be achievable, it probably won't likely happen before 2016.

In the meantime, they say they hope next year to focus on reducing the allowable level of prescription medication drivers can have in their system; perhaps setting that at zero. Legislators say driving while impaired by drugs is a growing concern, especially if it's accompanied by the drinking of alcohol.

MADD officials at the news conference steered clear of comments related to what might happen in the future. The president of the state's chapter said the group is happy for now with the interlock requirement, saying it will save lives.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, "Lawmakers to target drinking drivers who have pills in their system," Tom Humphrey, June 5, 2013

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