Repeat DUIs are an “Epidemic” – Kern County, California DA

repeat-duis-california-problemA lot of people are not aware that repeat drunk drivers are some of the scariest people on earth. About a third of all drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat DUIs. A person with a prior DUI is more than four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a drunk driver with no impaired driving record.

And yet repeat drunk driving is an astonishingly common crime. From 2010 to early 2016, one California county has prosecuted well over 6,000 repeat DUI cases. That number does not count first drunk driving offenses, drivers who have more than four DUIs on record – or drivers who injured or killed another person.

Garrett Rice, Kern County Deputy District Attorney, says the problem is escalating. Rice told KGET TV in Bakersfield that every year since 2010, some 20 to 25 percent of DUI offenders rack up a subsequent offense. Because of jail overcrowding, priority is given to other types of offenders, and serious repeat DUI offenders often get off with light punishments.

In any case, the effectiveness of jail, community service and fines is debatable. Often repeat offenders have problems with alcohol abuse and dependency which can’t be addressed through punishment alone.

What Kern County Needs: Ignition Interlocks

Repeat drunk driving is a public safety issue. The measure that is known to keep citizens safe from drunk drivers is an ignition interlock requirement. Breathalyzer-like devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, ignition interlocks are the only way to keep drunk drivers off the road which also allows them to get their lives back together. They also place less of a burden on the taxpayer than prison.

Four counties in California mandate ignition interlocks for all DUI offenses, as part of a pilot program to test the effectiveness of the devices. The program was recently extended several years, which is good: half the country now mandates the devices for all drunk driving offenses, and California should do so as well.

If repeat drunk drivers are the problem, then Kern County, and the rest of the state, should adopt a solution which prevents first-time DUIs from becoming repeat DUIs. Ignition interlocks are a success story, and California needs to become part of it.