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Deukmejian Signs Law on Driver Tests for Impaired

July 16, 1986|LYNN O'SHAUGHNESSY | Times Staff Writer

A Northridge teen-ager who was killed by a wrong-way driver on the San Bernardino Freeway in January, 1985, was remembered this week when Gov. George Deukmejian signed a bill designed to get impaired motorists off the roads quicker.

The bill was introduced in response to the death of Holly Bregman, 16, who was returning from a ski trip when an elderly man driving the wrong way crashed into her car. Both were killed. The 84-year-old driver had been stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer the day before the accident for driving erratically.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, 1987, requires drivers who are judged by a traffic officer to be physically or mentally impaired to undergo a driver's license re-examination at a Department of Motor Vehicles office within five days. Drivers who do not meet the deadline will have their licenses suspended until they are retested.

Can Take Months

Currently, impaired drivers stopped by police are referred to the DMV, but months can pass before they are examined. Because of the long delays, some officers do not bother to notify the DMV when they stop disoriented drivers, the bill's author, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), said.

Katz said he believes prompter re-examinations will remove some errant drivers from the road faster.

"This is not the total solution to the problem," Katz said, but he added, "This is one way to get some of them off the street."

Wrong-way drivers account for nearly 600 deaths and injuries each year on California roads and highways, Katz said.

The chief lobbyists for the bill were Holly Bregman's parents, Joseph and Taube Bregman, who formed an organization called Citizens Resolved to Achieve Safe Highways (CRASH) a few weeks after their daughter's funeral.

'I'm absolutely thrilled," said Joseph Bregman, an Encino attorney, of the bill's signing. "It's a positive response out of a tragedy."

Bregman said his group will continue to push for legislation geared toward making the roads safer. One of the group's top priorities is to see a medical test developed that would help the DMV weed out dangerously impaired drivers before they are involved in an accident.

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