By Hetty Chang
The holidays are a time to celebrate, but all too often, it ends in tragedy when someone decides to drink and drive, according to recent statistics released by advocates pushing for a “social host ordinance” in one region of Southern California.
In Orange County in 2010, there were 941 underage DUI convictions and 150 fatal or injury collisions involving underage DUI drivers, according to statistics from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Highway Patrol.
The families of DUI victims on Monday joined law enforcement and county officials to urge the Orange County Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance that would make it illegal to serve alcohol to minors at a gathering where three or more people are present in a private home.
The homeowner would have to have knowledge of the drinking. A first offense would result in a fine of $750. The second offense and those thereafter would be considered a misdemeanor.
“I used to tell my kids to never be out after midnight, ever,” said John Saliture, whose daughter Allison was killed by a 20-year old driver who had just left a private home where he had been drinking.
“Probably about 20 minutes later, my daughter was laying on the street.”
That was March 1994, and the last time Saliture would see his daughter.
“If my kid is going to party, I want to know who is there and what’s happening and who is responsible,” said Todd Spitzer, the county’s supervisor.
Eight of the county’s 34 cities already have the ordinance in place: Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, and Orange.
“I strongly believe that if the social host ordinance was in effect nine years ago, that my mom and her fiancé might be here today,” said Desiree Vargas, whose mother Debbie was killed by a 19-year-old driver in 2004.
The social host ordinance passed in Laguna Beach in 2012, but not without push back. Opponents argued it would be an infringement of privacy and rights. Others said it distracts from tackling the bigger issue of drinking and driving.
“When you lose someone it’s really true, not a day goes by when you don’t think of that person,” said Saliture, who is urging parents to think before allowing teens to drink.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the ordinance Tuesday. If approved, it must pass a second reading on Jan. 14, 2014, before it goes into effect next March.
The ordinance would only apply to incorporated parts of the county, like Ladera Ranch and Cota de Caza. Individual cities would still have to pass their own laws.