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SUNDAY SPECIAL / VALLEY BRIEFING

Safe Holiday Driving

December 17, 1995

For many, drinking is synonymous with holiday partying, but when you do drink, don't plan to drive. If an immediate four-month driver's license suspension isn't enough to deter you, consider the financial consequences.

Even with tougher laws, drunk driving is still a big problem, especially during the holidays. To combat it, the LAPD is protecting the public with free cab vouchers. In addition, a sobriety checkpoint is planned on New Year's Eve somewhere in the Foothill Division area.

DUI Convictions

The license of a first-time DUI offender is automatically revoked for four months. If convicted, the following sanctions apply:

* 1st conviction: Fine of $390 to $1,000 and serve 96 hours to 6 months in jail with three to five years probation.

* 2nd conviction: Same fines as first, but imprisonment term is at least 90 days to one year.

* 3rd conviction: If within seven years, can lead to prison term of two to four years plus additional fines.

* 4th conviction: Automatic felony.

If DUI and Driving Recklessly . . .

* And exceeding speed limit by 30 mph on a highway, or 20 mph on any other roadway, an additional 60-day penalty will be added to sentence.

* If minor under age of 14 is in vehicle at time of arrest, penalty increased up to 90 days. DUI driver with minor may also be convicted of child endangerment, which is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, or in state prison for two, four or six years.

DUI Consequences

According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, penalties, fees and other costs would set a first-time DUI offender back nearly $11,000. And that doesn't include lost wages, medical costs, vehicle property damage and the cost of an ignition interlock device, if the judge deems it necessary.

Fines (minimum): $390

Penalties (minimum): $663

Tow/Impound fee: $150

Alcohol education class: $375

Auto insurance increase ($2,200 annually for 3 years): $6,600

Restitution fund: $100

DMV license reissue fee: $100

Attorney and legal fees (fees may vary): $2,500

Total: $10,878

How Much Is Too Much?

The number of drinks it takes a person to become legally intoxicated or attain a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%.

Note: A drink is a 1-1/4 ozs. 80-proof liquor, 12 oz. can of beer or 4 ozs. of wine in a two-hour period. Intoxication varies among individuals.

Safety Tips

* Don't drink and drive

* Have a designated driver

* If hosting a party, serve food and stop serving alcohol a few hours before the party ends. Be aware of guests' sobriety. Help make arrangements for their transportation home. Consider inviting guests to spend the night.

Call a Cab

Revelers out on the town who have had too much to drink can avoid getting behind the wheel by taking advantage of the "Last Call Holiday Safety Program," sponsored in part by the LAPD. Bartenders at selected local bars and restaurants will hand out vouchers to intoxicated customers. The following restrictions apply:

* The first seven miles are free. For longer trips, customer pays remaining fare.

* In effect Dec. 22 to Jan. 1, 24 hours a day.

Unsafe Streets

Since 1990, when the legal intoxication limit was lowered from 0.10% to 0.08%.

Deaths:

1990: 99

1991: 89

1992: 78

1993: 56

1994: 65

Serious injury collisions:

1990: 322

1991: 280

1992: 281

1993: 187

1994: 193

Note: On surface streets only, not freeways.

Sources: Automobile Club of Southern California; California Highway Patrol; Department of Motor Vehicles; Los Angeles Police Department, Researched by JULIE SHEER / Los Angeles Times

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