Bill to prevent drunken driving passes

A bill intended to reduce drunken driving in San Diego County and four other counties was approved today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

AB 91 would create a pilot project in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, 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.

“If we had this law, those three young people in that car quite possibly would have been alive today,’' Mary Klotzbach from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told ABC7. The offender would have an IID as a protective device, not so much as a penalty, but to protect him too.’'

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 who criticized the bill for eliminating 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 of the American Beverage Institute told the committee.