Anti-drunken driving bill presented in Sacramento

The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday at the state capitol in Sacramento on a bill intended to reduce drunken driving in San Diego County and three other counties.

AB 91 would create a pilot project in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Alameda counties from July 1, 2010 to Jan. 1, 2015 requiring convicted drunken drivers to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles.

A driver is required to blow into the device to start the vehicle. The vehicle will not start unless the driver’s blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08. “Even with restricted licenses, DUI offenders still have the ability to drink and drive and to harm innocent people,’' said Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D- Los Angeles, the author of AB 91. “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.’'

The bill’s supporters include Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Los

Angeles Police Department. MADD National President Laura Mooney said a strong ignition interlock law could have prevented the collision last week that killed Los Angeles Angels

of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, Cal State Fullerton student Courtney Frances Stewart, 20, and law student Henry Nigel Pearson, 25, who was also beginning a career as a sports agent.

Andrew Thomas Gallo, who has been charged with second-degree murder in their deaths, had a previous drunken driving condition.

Research shows that 50 to 75 percent of drunken drivers whose licenses are suspended continue to drive and that ignition interlocks reduce repeat drunken driving offenses by 64 percent, according to MADD.

The bill’s opponents include Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the California DUI Lawyers Association and the American Beverage Institute. The two lawyers’ groups have questioned the effectiveness of ignition interlock laws in other states and criticized the bill for eliminating judicial discretion.