New penalties: drunk drivers will lose their cars

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003

Under a new city ordinance, driving drunk means losing your car or truck for three business days.

"Before a driver even gets in the car, this serves as a deterrent," said Cindy Cashen, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Drunken driving carries numerous penalties, including car impoundment and jail time, depending on a driver's prior violations. Before this ordinance was passed, Juneau police could release a vehicle to a responsible party on the day of the offense.

"This will hold people accountable, and see that they don't go out and re-offend in that vehicle," said police Capt. Tom Porter. "Unfortunately we have had incidents like that in the past, not many, but there have been a few. This will be a tool to address some of that."

Retrieving a car from the impound lot after three days costs between $100 and $150, depending on which company impounds the car.

Cashen said Anchorage and Fairbanks have similar ordinances, and studies have shown impoundment discourages drunken driving.

"We just know it works for repeat offenders," she said. "It works not only for them but for someone who might consider driving drunk for the first time."

In a presentation to the Juneau Assembly on Monday night, Cashen provided statistics from other communities that have impound laws. In California in 1995, drunken driving offenses decreased by 18 percent for first-time offenders and 47 percent for second-time offenders after a similar impoundment ordinance was passed, she said. In New York City, also after the passage of a similar ordinance in 1999, DWI arrests decreased by 14 percent, and there were 30 percent fewer alcohol-related crashes, she said.

"We don't know exactly why it works, but it does," Cashen said.

In 2001, Juneau had 403 drunken-driving arrests, according to MADD statistics.

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