Motorists in Pennsylvania are reminded that the Commonwealth's new driving under the influence (DUI) law takes effect this Sunday, Feb. 1, coincidentally the same day as the Super Bowl.

The new DUI law that Governor Edward G. Rendell signed on Oct. 1, 2003, creates stronger deterrents to drunk driving in Pennsylvania. The law increases punishments on the basis of the driver's blood-alcohol level and carries more severe penalties for repeat offenders, doubling fines in some cases and imposing longer jail terms.

Phoenixville Police Chief John Kalavik said motorists will have to learn to drive sensibly and use common sense.

"The new DUI law is less tolerant than previous laws," said Kalavik. "The new lower blood alcohol limit has been in effect since last fall when the law was passed. Since that time, we've been sending several of our officers to school for the new DUI law."

The 0.08 blood-alcohol content regulation has been enforced since Oct. 1, but starting Feb. 1, the following provisions go into effect:

First-time offenders whose blood-alcohol level is less than 0.10 percent will not lose their license as they did under the previous law.

First-time offenders whose blood-alcohol level is above 0.10 percent will still lose their license for a year, but they can apply for a special work-related license after 60 days.

Maximum prison/probation penalties for first-time offenders are lowered from 24 months to six months. Minimum imprisonment is raised for high-end offenders.

Repeat offenders must get an ignition interlock, a device that drivers must blow into to measure their blood-alcohol level before they can drive. Previously, offenders could avoid the device by taking longer suspensions.

The new law will divide penalties into three classes, for offenders with blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 to 0.099, from 0.10 to 0.159, and 0.16 and higher. Penalties rise substantially for higher levels.

Responding to how the new law will affect people attending Super Bowl parties, Kalavik said he recommends partygoers plan ahead and use designated drivers or provide transportation to guests.

"We've seen over the years that there has been an unusual amount of drunk drivers on the road that day," he said. "We're hoping that this law will deter individuals from taking any unnecessary chances while driving."

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