Seven years ago, my 22-year-old son, Alex Ruiz, was killed by a drunken driver who ran a stoplight on a Sonoma County highway. He was a sound engineering student at Ex’pression College in Emeryville. His passenger, Vanessa King, was injured and endured the horror of being trapped inside a car and watching a friend take his last breath.
No family should have a loved one taken so violently by this completely preventable crime.
The Legislature has an opportunity to save lives and protect residents and visitors from drunken drivers. Sen. Jerry Hill has authored legislation that would require all drunken driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle after conviction. The Senate Public Safety Committee, which is to hear the legislation Tuesday, should immediately pass Senate Bill 1046.
Requiring ignition interlocks for all drunken drivers is just good common sense. These small devices stop someone who is impaired from starting his or her car. The driver blows into the device, and the car will not start if alcohol is detected at a pre-set level.
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Under current law, ignition interlocks are required for all offenders in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties. Judges can order ignition interlocks in other counties, but they usually don’t. SB 1046 would expand the requirement for all offenders to all of California.
Since 2006, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has advocated for every state to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws. Twenty-five states have these laws, and some have seen dramatic decreases in drunken driving deaths. Arizona and West Virginia have reduced drunken driving fatalities by 50 and 40 percent, respectively.
A new report by MADD shows that across the nation ignition interlocks have stopped more than 1.77 million would-be drunken drivers from starting their cars, including more than 124,000 in California. That’s an alarming number of drivers who, if not for an ignition interlock, could have turned their vehicle into a weapon aimed at anyone who crossed their path.
Imagine how many drunken drivers are on California’s roadways today because we aren’t requiring ignition interlocks for all offenders. Sadly, we hear about them only after they’ve torn yet another family apart.
We all deserve to drive without fear that the driver next to us has recklessly chosen to drink and drive. Ignition interlocks are the only proven countermeasure to keep a drunken driver from being a repeat offender.
Please honor the memory of my son and the thousands of other drunken driving victims by passing SB 1046.
Lydia Ruiz lives in Alameda County and wrote this piece at the behest of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.