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Attorney General Lockyer Announces Expansion of Roadside Devices to Help Prosecute Drunk Drivers
(SACRAMENTO) – California Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) in partnership with the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and law enforcement agencies will increase the number of Evidentiary Portable Alcohol System (EPAS) instruments provided to more than 400 participating law enforcement agencies in 39 counties and expand services to include the support of existing alcohol awareness programs on college campuses within the BFS service areas.
"In 2002, more than 350 people between the ages of 18 and 24 were killed in alcohol involved collisions statewide," Lockyer said. "Alcohol and driving are a lethal combination, and law enforcement will continue to do everything possible to reduce the number of these tragic and preventable deaths. The expansion of the EPAS program will improve law enforcement's ability to detect drunk drivers and get them off the road."
The EPAS instrument uses new technology to combine the traditional preliminary alcohol screening device and the immobile evidential breath test instrument into one self-powered, self-contained portable unit. The devices meet requirements set by the California Department of Health Services for admissible court evidence.
"This is cutting-edge technology that gives officers the ability to conduct an evidential blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test at the time of a traffic stop," said Sunne Wright McPeak, Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency which awarded the grant through the Office of Traffic Safety. "As a result, officers are kept on the street protecting citizens and lives are saved."
Prior to using EPAS units, officers who suspected a driver was over the legal BAC level were required to transport the suspect to a separate facility for an evidential blood or breath test that could be used in court. In some remote counties, the time between field screening and testing at a stationary unit can be an hour or more, which can result in BAC values that do not reflect the level of intoxication at the time of the traffic stop.
The EPAS units consist of a palm-sized computer, a magnetic card reader, a printer, and the Draeger Alcotest 7410 Plus breath-testing instrument. Utilizing chemical fuel cell technology, 800 of the units, maintained by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) forensic labs, have already replaced 125 stationary alcohol testing instruments currently in use.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2003, 32% of drivers across the United States involved in fatal collisions with BAC levels of .08 or higher were between the ages of 21 and 24. NHTSA also reported California had 1,626 traffic fatalities involving alcohol which represents 39% of the states' traffic fatalities for 2003.
EPAS was developed for the DOJ and is being funded through a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety, through the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. More information is available at http://ag.ca.gov/bfs/content/epas.htm
BFS service areas that utilize EPAS instruments include the counties of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Plumas, Riverside, San Benito, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.