LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Lawmakers in Carson City are pushing for harsher penalties for drunk drivers in Nevada.
Nearly half of the fatal crashes in Las Vegas involve an impaired driver.
Sandy Heverly has been fighting for change for more than 30 years. She’s worked with thousands of families, who have lost a loved one because of an impaired driver.
She supported many DUI bills in Nevada over the years. She called the latest one, senate bill 297, aggressive. But she still wants to see some changes before it goes to a vote.
“The drunk drivers never take a day off. On the holidays, they work overtime,” Heverly said.
Heverly has been working overtime too. She founded the valley group "STOP DUI" more than 35 years ago, after an impaired driver nearly killed her entire family.
“Our offender for example just received a $100 fine and walked out of the courtroom laughing,” she said.
That was back in the 1980s.
“Everything that you see under the current DUI statute was born on the backs of victims,” she said.
Since the crash, she has studied bills and been vocal in the community, pushing for stricter DUI penalties.
"This one is certainly aggressive,” Heverly said. “I think there are parts of it that do have merit.”
S.B. 297 targets repeat offenders.
“We have thousands of DUI arrests in the state of Nevada and generally speaking, 30% of those are repeat offenders,” she said.
Among the changes, the bill increases fines and jail times.
“Once you go into someone’s pocketbook, you’re hitting them hard where the money comes from,” she said. “But for the most part, the jail time it sounds good. We love it. But it doesn’t happen.”
Under the bill, jail time for a first offense would be bumped from two to 30 days.
For a second offense, it would increase from 10 days to six months.
The bill also would give officers three hours instead of two to get a breathalyzer or blood test from a suspect upon arrest.
Heverly is a strong supporter of the additional time for officers.
But she worries added penalties won’t be enough to stop someone from getting behind the wheel.
“When a person is arrested for their first DUI, we know that they’ve already driven drunk 87 times on average,” Heverly said.
The law also upgrades the charge for a second offense from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. Heverly said that change would allow a suspect to have a jury trial, which she believes will further strain our court system.
“It has a very, very strong and negative impact on the families who have been waiting for months and months and months because the backlog is huge,” she said.
Heverly said overall she does support the bill and lawmakers’ efforts. She plans to work with lawmakers to address these issues to make our roadways safer.
“We’ve made significant progress but it’s of no consolation to those innocent people who are being killed, injured and having their lives destroyed.”
A hearing for the bill is set for Thursday.