Starting on Jan. 1, drivers who refuse sobriety tests will be labeled 'persistent drunk drivers'

DENVER - Colorado drunk driving laws are about to get tougher heading into 2014.

Starting on Jan. 1, any Colorado driver who refuses a sobriety test will be branded a "persistent drunk driver."

Currently, if a driver refuses to take a blood test or breathalyzer to determine their blood alcohol content, they are treated as a drunk driver.

Under the new law, they would be treated as a persistent drunk driver, meaning if they want their license back within the one-year suspension, they would be required hook a breathalyzer to their car and blow into it before the car would start. They would have to wait at least two months into their license suspension before being allowed this option.

Under the current law, persistent drunk drivers are those who were found to have a blood alcohol content of .17 or higher. In 2014, that will be lowered to .15.

Drivers who have multiple drunk driving convictions are also considered persistent drunk drivers. They can request to have their license reinstated within one month of being suspended, if they hook up an interlock device to their vehicles.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there were 25,000 DUI arrests in Colorado in 2012. Of those arrests, more than 7,300 -- or three out of 10 -- refused to use a breathalyzer or to have their blood drawn.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in Colorado in 2012, there were 169 fatal car accidents involving alcohol. Of those crashes, 92 -- or 54 percent -- involved a driver whose blood alcohol content was greater than .15.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Secretary called for all 50 states to require first-time drunk drivers to use interlock devices before they can start their vehicles.

Right now, 20 states require those types of devices for first-time drunk drivers.

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