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Tougher Laws Aren't the Only Way to Stop DUIs

September 01, 2002

Re "Tougher Laws Are the Best Antidote to Drunk Drivers," Aug. 23:

Tougher laws could be the best antidote to drunk drivers. But while waiting for such laws to be passed, let us make other life-saving environmental prevention strategies, which have been proved to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, work for our health and safety. Driving under the influence checkpoints, where police randomly stop cars and look for intoxicated drivers, send a clear message to the public that law enforcement is watching out for impaired drivers.

Communities that consistently use checkpoints have experienced reductions in DUI incidents as much as eight times greater than communities that depend on roving patrols, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. An Orange County nonprofit, Community Service-Project PATH, is gaining recognition for its free training on responsible beverage service for restaurant and bar owners along with their alcohol servers. Restaurant owners are beginning to see the value of being trained how to spot false IDs, how to refuse a minor admission, how to count and monitor drinks of guests, and how to refuse service to an intoxicated guest. We would see fewer impaired drivers on our streets if we had more DUI checkpoints and training.

Lourdes Gutierrez

Fountain Valley

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I'm not sure I agree that tougher laws are the best antidote for drunk drivers who kill. While it may give us a good deal of satisfaction to lock up these miscreants and throw away the key, I am skeptical that this is the most effective or, for that matter, fairest way to deal with them. It seems to me that prevention would be a better alternative to punishment to the extent that this is possible. In this context, prevention means education and counseling for alcoholics.

Last year's Proposition 36 was a big step forward in this respect. A program similar to this should be available to alcoholics. Granted, this could be expensive, but incarceration is even more expensive, particularly when you consider the lost productivity of the convict. Of course, a program like this needs to have teeth--severe consequences for those who fail to comply. I have no quarrel with that. I just think that there is lots of room for improvement in our treatment efforts.

As a specific example, offenders are usually ordered by the court to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. But AA meetings are not for everyone, for a variety of reasons. One problem is the religious nature of AA; many people are not religious and find it difficult to connect with the program. By offering more professional counseling and perhaps some alternatives to AA (such as Rational Recovery, for example), I think more alcoholics and drug addicts could be helped out of their dependence. (Yes, Rational Recovery meetings are currently allowed by the courts to substitute for AA, but Rational Recovery meetings are few and far between. With better funding, more such meetings could be created.)

David Salahi

Laguna Niguel

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