SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
DATE: September 25, 2001
CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108
COUNTY SEEKS TO PUT THE BRAKES ON DRUNK DRIVERS AT U.S. BORDER
SAN DIEGO - Hoping to stem the flow of drunk drivers returning to San Diego from South of the Border bars and nightclubs, San Diego County Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob want federal officials to detain suspected drunk drivers at the border, before the drivers endanger lives on United States roadways.
At the urging of Cox and Jacob, the Board of Supervisors has unanimously agreed to seek legislation which would give the Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Customs and the Border Patrol the legal authority to detain suspected drunk drivers at border crossings and divert suspects to local law enforcement for sobriety checks.
"Currently, federal law enforcement agencies are powerless to detain drunk drivers until local police agencies arrive to investigate," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "Giving federal agents this simple but effective tool can mean the difference between life and death for innocent drivers and passengers in the U.S." Jacob said.
"The federal government must emphasize that driving into this country under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and deadly," said Supervisor Greg Cox, whose district includes both of San Diego County's border crossings. "Officers already detain drivers suspected of carrying controlled substances at the border. Stopping suspected drunk drivers is long overdue," Cox said.
In addition to broadening the authority of federal law enforcement at the border, Supervisors Cox and Jacob are asking the U.S. Attorney General to post warnings at all land and water points of entry into the U.S. that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an offense under federal law.
Supervisors Cox and Jacob have received support from fellow members of the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition, an organization representing the 24 counties that border Mexico. The Coalition took a position in support of the proposal to pursue more federal help to aid local law enforcement efforts to stop drunk drivers as they cross the border.
On the average weekend night, nearly 10,000 young Americans cross the border to drink in Mexico where the legal drinking age is 18. Similarly, nearly 40 percent of weekend border crossers returning from Tijuana are under 21 years of age and are legally drunk.
In the past year, two California Highway Patrol officers have been struck and killed by suspected drunk drivers returning from Mexico.