Local lawmakers are considering giving people with four DUIs a chance to get restricted driver's permits, changing the law that bans them from getting an Illinois license for life.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, won preliminary approval from a House committee Wednesday.
Glendale Heights resident Michael Geever testified before lawmakers at a hearing that he'd had four DUIs by his 30s, the last in 2003.
"Drugs and alcohol had a firm grip, and I was pile-driving my life into the ground," Geever said.
After his fourth DUI, Geever sought help and today has a job, continues to practice the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and sponsors other addicts who want to be sober.
"Those who drive while intoxicated do so thinking they won't get caught," he said. "Those with a lifetime revocation will think, 'I will drive safely and none will be the wiser.' I know because the thought crosses my mind."
A House committee voted 8-3 in favor of Nekritz's plan, sending it to the House floor for further debate. Last year a similar plan was rejected by a committee.
Critics argue someone who has four DUIs on his record is no longer fit to be on the road.
"Four DUIs, it really shows this person has a pattern of driving under the influence," state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, said. "I need to see more evidence that they've changed. We have to get drunk drivers off the street."
Under the proposal, people who got permission for the special driver's license would face limitations such as driving only during the day and installing an ignition interlock device in their cars. The device is a special Breathalyzer that locks the ignition until the person blows into it and is shown to be sober.
Under the proposal, people who have gone five years or more without a DUI arrest could plead their case to officials in the Illinois secretary of state's office.
Nekritz said the state's current law, which bans four-time offenders from driving for life, is "overreaching," and that even when offenders lose their licenses, it won't stop them from driving.
"I'm sure that a lot of these people are out there driving because they have to get to work," Nekritz said. "Somehow they have to support themselves and they have to support their families, so many of them are probably driving illegally."