Friday, September 26, 2008

DUI bill battle in California

California DUI attorneys are told Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and their supporters took a stand against the American Beverage Institute (ABI) in an argument over a new bill in California that MADD believes will greatly reduce the incidence of drunk driving. The ignition interlock bill AB2784 would require breathalyzers to be installed in cars after a first conviction of DUI, something MADD says will save hundreds of lives. The alcohol ignition interlock is an electronic device that is linked to the ignition system of a vehicle, and when someone wants to start the vehicle they must first blow into the device with a blood alcohol concentration below a preset level. Studies show that interlock devices are 65 percent effective in reducing drunken driving offenses.

American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, is against the penalties this bill would put on first time offenders. According to both MADD and ABI, the greatest threat on our roads comes from drivers with very high blood alcohol concentration and more than one DUI conviction. ABI believes that this bill would target the wrong groups of offenders when what we really want to do is get the “hard core” alcohol abusers off the road. ABI has some suggestions of their own on how to curb drunk driving, such as putting more patrols out on the roads looking specifically for drunk drivers. By doing this, ABI says, offenders wouldn’t be able to predict where they may get caught, as they would with the sobriety checkpoints that MADD is also campaigning for.

MADD has a long history of fighting drunk driving, and their new Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving is another way they are helping to make our roads safer. Even if they are targeting first time offenders as well as seasoned drunk drivers, do we really want anyone behind the wheel that has had too much to drink? And who knows, by implementing stricter penalties for even the first crime, maybe fewer people will go on to be repeat offenders.

ABI has some good ideas themselves on how to fight drunk driving. By focusing on a long term screening and alcoholism treatment process for offenders, they have shown that they understand the help that people with alcoholism need in order to change their behavior.

Although both sides have their own opinions on the issue, they both have said that education is the key to solving this public safety problem. And like the rest of us in this country, they want to work toward safer roads.