As Americans prepare for end-of-year holiday celebrations, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers and passengers alike of the dangers on the roads this New Year’s Day, which consistently ranks as the year’s deadliest day for alcohol-related fatalities. To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, AAA is announcing its support of ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, and offers important safety advice to partygoers.
AAA is not alone in its concern about impaired driving or strong support for tough policies for convicted drunk drivers. According to the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than nine in 10 drivers consider drinking and driving by others a serious threat to their personal safety, and nearly all (97 percent) surveyed find it unacceptable for a driver to get behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink. To prevent these dangers, nearly eight in 10 Americans support requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.
Research Supports IID Use
Research has identified ignition interlock devices (IIDs) as a proven way to save lives. AAA’s recommendation to require the use of IIDs for all convicted offenders is grounded in research, which shows that IIDs are more effective than other methods at reducing re-arrest among convicted drunk drivers and keeping impaired drivers off the road.
AAA is reaching out to motorists on the heels of a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) decision to support laws requiring IID use for all first-time DUI offenders—one of several new recommendations issued to help curb alcohol-related traffic injury and death. “I commend AAA for stepping up for safety,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. “Technologies, such as ignition interlocks, will reduce alcohol-related crashes on our nation's roadways. We look forward to working alongside AAA and its clubs to eliminate the nation’s top killer on our roadways – impaired driving.”
Seventeen states have passed laws mandating statewide use of ignition IIDs for all offenders. Since 2010 California has mandated a pilot program in four counties (Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, and Tulare), covering 13 million people, requiring installation of IIDs for first-time and multiple offenders. Drivers in other counties may also be required to install an IID at a judge’s discretion.
“Safety can be improved by requiring IID use for all first-time DUI offenders,” said Auto Club traffic safety and community programs manager, Anita Lorz. “However, simply mandating the device is not enough. We need to ensure that judges actually order IID use and that there is effective oversight and enforcement to ensure offenders have the devices in place on their vehicles. The results of California’s extensive IID first-time offender pilot program, which runs through 2015, will provide critical information to determine how best to use IIDs in the state.”
California Cost of DUI Conviction Increases
People convicted of driving under the influence can lose many important social underpinnings in their lives, such as their family, job, dignity and money. According to the Auto Club, a first offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more. That figure is up 29% from just two years ago – largely due to a 37% increase in auto insurance and state and county fees and penalties. The Auto Club estimate also includes:
- state-mandated (minimum) fine,
- vehicle towing and storage fees,
- DMV license re-issue fee,
- DUI education class,
- victim restitution fund fee,
- booking and other court charges and
- attorney fees.
These costs do not include other common charges such as the cost of an IID ($70 or more per month), bail ($2,500), and transportation costs while a driver has a suspended license, lost wages, vehicle property damage and hospital and medical costs. The cost of an under age 21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is estimated to be $22,492, due to a larger increase in insurance.
The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:
- Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.
- At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
- Never serve alcohol to those under age 21.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even one drink can seriously affect someone’s driving ability.
- Call a friend, family member or taxi for a ride home if you have been drinking.
- Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home, or ask a bartender or server for a phone number.
- As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
- Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.
- If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).
- Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely.