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Lawmaker wants to double jail time for drunken driving

Posted: Friday, July 22, 2005

A state lawmaker wants to double jail time for drunken drivers caught with a blood alcohol content of more than .16 percent.

Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, told the Fairbanks chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Wednesday that he would introduce a bill to target high-risk drivers.

Under Alaska law, the threshold for presumptive guilt for drunken driving is a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. But studies show that 58 percent of alcohol-related fatalities involve someone with a blood alcohol content of .15 percent or higher.

According to MADD, those drivers are 358 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those who do not drink.

"We're trying to make the distinction between legally drunk and really drunk," Ramras said.

It's comparable to a motorist driving 10 mph over the speed limit and one driving 50 mph over the speed limit, and addressing the latter's gross negligence, he said.

Under Ramras' proposal, first-time offenders would be sentenced to serve six days. Second-time violators would serve a minimum of 20 days, and third-time offenders would serve at least 120 days.

Penalties for those refusing to take breath tests also would be tougher under the bill.

Fines would not double, but violators may have to pay more for their cost of imprisonment if their jail sentence is longer, Ramras said.

The reaction from the MADD crowd in Fairbanks was lukewarm, Ramras said. They would prefer to see the threshold for presumptive guilt for drunken driving lowered to .04 percent, and they want tougher penalties for second arrests, he said.

"We absolutely support higher consequences for higher-risk drivers," said Marti Greeson, executive director of the Anchorage MADD chapter. Juneau no longer has a MADD chapter.

Juneau police said they arrested 312 adults and nine minors last year for drunken driving.

Thirty-one states have laws for high-risk drunken drivers. Studies showed that tougher laws in those states deterred one-time offenders from driving drunk again, Greeson said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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