New law cracks down on D.C. drunk drivers

A big crackdown is on the way for drunk drivers in the D.C. area.

Starting Wednesday, the penalties for people convicted of DUI in the District will significantly increase.

But some residents say the penalties are still not enough.

About 2,000 people a year are arrested for drinking and driving each year in D.C. Drunk driving also accounts for nearly 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the city.

In an effort to bring those numbers down, the District is adding mandatory jail time for many offenses. Taxi drivers and others are also being singled out for stricter enforcement. In some cases, the penalties are double or even triple the original fine. The new law also make jail time mandatory for second offenses.

D.C. resident Jacob Kuitwaerd agrees with the new measures, saying,{ } "Whatever it takes to get drunk drivers off the roads is acceptable to me."

Advocates for tougher drunk driving laws call it a good step forward, but add the District still has work to do.

"You're really catching up to the neighboring states," said Kurt Erickson, with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

A first offense in Maryland and Virginia can get you a year in jail.

Starting August 1, a first offense in the District goes from a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Additional penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, along with a mandatory five day jail sentence if you're driving drunk with a child in the car.

For commercial drivers, including taxi drivers, there will be a mandatory 10 day jail sentence on top of the original fine.

For Darnell Daniels of Maryland, the additional fines for cab drivers comes too late.

"My uncle was actually killed by a cab driver that was actually drunk," said Daniels.

He thinks additional fines for commercial drivers could prove a real deterrent.

"This person had a DUI before and he was allowed to drive another cab," Daniels added.

The new law may also help fix an issue that prevented D.C. police from performing breathalyzer tests. Officials hope to have the breathalyzer program operational again by next month.{ }

Even if it's not, it won't stop the new penalties from taking effect.