MADD says Nevada needs tougher DUI laws

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- A new report by Mothers Against Drunk Driving ranks Nevada as three stars out of a possible total of five. The ranking means MADD believes Nevada can do more to prevent driving under the influence.

While DUI crashes often make the news, plenty of other DUI arrests go unreported. In the last week in Washoe County, 35 people have been booked into the Washoe County Jail for DUI. The problem, while hidden from the public eye, is real.

"If you are out there drinking, please don't drive. If you are out there using drugs, whether they are illegal or prescription, don't get behind the wheel of a car," said Reno Police Chief Jason Soto during a pedestrian safety press conference November 18, 2016.

Soto says law enforcement knows the problem exists and they are working to fight it.

"We have, since our last press conference back in August, added an additional DUI unit to our traffic division for what will equate to several hundred additional DUI arrests," said Chief Soto.

Increased enforcement is a good first step, but research shows a driver will drive drunk an average 80 times before they are caught. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving is proposing bigger changes.

"I do believe this would be a huge benefit,” said Debbie Zelinski, who lost her daughter to a second-time DUI offender 20+ years ago.

Zelinski says an ignition interlock device would have saved her daughter’s life and it would save many lives in Nevada.

"The person that is the offender would have to breathe into a device to prove that they are not under the influence before the vehicle will start," said Zelinski, describing an ignition interlock device.

Such devices are legal in Nevada, but they are only used at a judge’s discretion. Zelinski says nationwide, MADD's number one goal in 2017 will be to make the device is mandatory for first-time DUI offenders in Nevada.

"It is going to be a battle getting it through, but I think that because 28 states plus the District of Columbia have passed this, I think that Nevada will actually look at this as being a positive," said Zelinski.

Zelinski and MADD plan to petition the Nevada State Legislature to change the law during the 2017 Legislative Session.