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Attorney General Lockyer Announces Roadside Device Will Help Prosecute Drunk Drivers

Monday, December 15, 2003
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – California Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced law enforcement in 38 counties will be armed this holiday season with a new portable alcohol testing device to aid in the enforcement of drunk driving laws.

"More than 2,000 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic fatalities between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day in 2001," Lockyer said. "This high-tech tool will go a long way to help law enforcement remove these dangerous drivers from our streets and highways."

The Evidentiary Portable Alcohol System (EPAS) 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 units allow officers to conduct both of the tests and record accurate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels at the time of the traffic stop. The devices meet requirements set by the California Department of Health Services for admissible court evidence.

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.

Use of the new technology will help reduce court arguments disputing BAC levels at the time of stop versus the time of the stationary test. Because the alcohol level is determined in the field, alternate transportation to the jail can be arranged, keeping California's law enforcement officers on the street protecting citizens.

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, 1,000 of the units, maintained by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) forensic labs, eventually will replace 185 stationary alcohol testing instruments currently in use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA), 17,419 people across the United States were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2002, or one preventable death about every half-hour. In 2001, the NTSA reported 17,448, or 41 percent of all traffic fatalities that year, were alcohol-related.

EPAS was developed for the DOJ and is being funded through a new technologies grant from the Office of Traffic Safety. More information is available at http://ag.ca.gov/bfs/content/epas.htm

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