California looks at new law to reduce drunk driving deaths and injuries

The California legislature is working on a bill that has helped lower the rate of drunk driving in twenty-eight other states. The bill would require any convicted drunken driver to install an ignition interlock device which would prevent the driver from starting his car if his blood alcohol level exceeded .03. Essentially a breathalyzer is installed in the car, which the driver would have to blow into before starting the engine. If alcohol is detected, an interlock device will prevent the car from starting.

As an Alameda personal injury, I have represented numerous persons who have been seriously injured as a result of being hit by a drunk driver. The need for such a law to reduce these type accidents is readily apparent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27 people die every day as a result of drunk driving. In 2014, 9,967 person were killed in drunk driving accidents. 290,000 people were injured in alcohol related accidents. During the past 30 years in California alone, over 50,000 people have died because of drunk drivers, and over one million have been injured. In addition to the emotional devastation caused by such behavior, the financial costs are staggering. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion dollars per year.

The bill, SB 1046, has passed the State Senate and now goes to the Assembly. Similar laws have cut the rate of drunken driving deaths in half in the twenty-seven states which have already passed similar laws. Currently in California, the law is being tested in five counties, Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, there have been more than 1 million attempts to start cars which have been rejected by the interlocks, since the pilot program was started in these counties. That’s a lot of impaired drivers who have been kept off of the road.

The length of time the convicted drunk driver would have to use the interlock device would be based upon the number of convictions the driver had. A person convicted of a first offense would be required to install the device for six months. A second offense would be required to install the interlock for 12 months; third offense, 24 months, and fourth offense 36 months. This is in addition to the other penalties imposed by law on convicted drunk drivers.

To my surprise, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Assembly. In writing this article, I searched for pros and cons relating to the use of these devices. The pros were significant as the devices showed a real impact on reducing alcohol related accidents in the States which have enacted similar laws. It makes sense to me. Many people who have problems with alcohol cannot control their drinking. This device takes the decision to drive out of their hands, and makes the roads safer for all of us. There were some minor cons associated with the law, such as the costs involved in installing the devices and monitoring them, and the inconvenience to other family members. Since the device is installed on the car, anyone wishing to drive the car has to blow into the breathalyzer to start the car. These are small prices to pay when compared with the lives that can be save, and the injuries that can be prevented.

I fully support the propose law and hope you do as well.


Peterson: No blow, no go–drunken drivers target of proposed state bill, East Bay Times, June 24, 2016

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