Public Comment

Preventing Drunk Driving in California

By Mary Klotzbach
Thursday June 25, 2009 - 06:34:00 PM

Stop four deaths in California every day? Senator Loni Hancock could do that with a simple vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee. 

Our highways are a battleground worse than Iraq. Cars driven by drunk drivers turn into weapons that kill an average of four people every day in California. 

But there’s a proven technology that is saving lives in other states and other countries—although it is very seldom used in California. Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has had too much to drink. Yet very few DUI offenders are required to get the device. 

AB 91, now being considered in the state Senate, would set up a pilot program in three counties (including Alameda) requiring anyone convicted of drunk driving to install the device (at their expense) for five months. AB 91 will be considered by Senator Hancock and the Public Safety Committee sometime in the next two weeks. 

Please note—there are 1,500 Californians killed by drunk drivers every year in this state. There are a mind-numbing 310,000 of us driving around right now with three or more DUI convictions. 

This is a revolving door of repeat offenders. 

As a mother who lost her son to a drunk driver and as a nurse in a large trauma center, I see victims every day. No one should lose a loved one to the criminal negligence of a drunk driver—especially when the technology exists to prevent such tragedies. 

Right now California has the opportunity to make a real difference in this effort. There is carnage on the highways up and down this state—we should not tolerate it. 

Installing interlocks on the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders has the potential to save hundreds of California lives and at the same time give offenders the ability to drive and not endanger the public. If all states mandated interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, we could save up to 4,000 lives a year. The drunk driver pays for the entire cost of the device, not the taxpayers. Implementation of interlocks will help unclog the courts and the jails of California. 

Interlocks are proven to be up to 90 percent effective in reducing recidivism while on vehicles. 

It is crucial for the IID to be mandated for the first-time offender. The Insurance Institute’s statistics show that the first time someone is convicted of a DUI is actually their 87th time to offend. AB 91 in its current language has the potential to save hundreds of lives by reducing drunk driving in California. 

To those who say that interlocks are too severe a punishment for those convicted of drunk driving, I say compared to what my family lost on July 29, 2001, when a DUI offender thought he had a right to drive after enjoying a few beers, an alcohol ignition interlock device is a lenient sanction. 

IIDs allow offenders to keep their jobs, family, and the ability to drive. They just can’t continue to violate the public trust by driving drunk. This is protection and prevention more than it is punishment. The IIDs have camera capability to be sure it is the offender who is breathing into the device. They are easily calibrated and—I have been told by one DUI offender—that the IID protects him and his own family from his worst impulses. 

Please ask Loni Hancock to support AB 91 with the strongest possible language.  


Mary Klotzbach is an RN and a member of 

MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.