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Program seeks to reduce drunk drivers

April 15, 2009 11:01:30 AM PDT
California lawmakers are considering a pilot program aimed at reducing the number of drunk drivers. Assembly Bill 91 would require people convicted of driving under the influence in five California counties to install Ignition Interlock Devices, or IIDs, on their vehicles.

Drivers would have to blow into the device to start their vehicle. If their blood-alcohol level is about the legal limit of .08, the vehicle will not start.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a pilot project to try the devices in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Sacramento, and Alameda counties between July 2010 and January 2015. Those counties have some of the highest DUI rates in the state.

Supporters of the proposal point to the recent crash that killed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, along with two of his friends, Courtney Frances Stewart, 20, and Nigel Pearson, 25. The man suspected of causing the crash, Andrew Thomas Gallo, had a previous drunken driving conviction, and at the time of the crash in Fullerton, Gallo's blood-alcohol level was reportedly three times the legal limit.

"If we had this law, those three young people in that car quite possibly would have been alive today," said Mary Klotzbach of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Opponents, including the American Beverage Institute, argue that because the devices make no distinction between someone just over the legal limit, and someone with a much higher blood-alcohol level, the bill takes away judicial discretion.

"When it comes to speeding, for example, you don't punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do for somebody going 30 miles over the speed limit," Sarah Longwell from the American Beverage Institute told the Assembly committee.

However, the author of the bill, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) defended the bill's purpose.

"Even with restricted licenses, DUI offenders still have the ability drink and drive and harm innocent people. This technology makes drunk driving increasingly preventable and gets offenders in the habit of sober driving. It has dramatically reduced DUI recidivism in other states," Feuer said.

In New Mexico, for example, studies show that IDDs contributed to a 60 percent reduction in the number of repeat DUI offenders.


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