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Introduction of John's Law

Location: Washington, DC

INTRODUCTION OF JOHN'S LAW -- (Extensions of Remarks - February 01, 2005)


Mr. LOBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, we will soon observe the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of one of my constituents. U.S. Navy Ensign John Elliott, who had just received his commission to Naval Flight School in Pensacola, Florida, was struck and killed by a drunk driver on July 22, 2000. The accident instantly killed Elliot and seriously injured his passenger, Kristen Hohenwarter.

Sadly, it was later discovered that the driver responsible for Elliott's death had been arrested for drunken driving earlier that evening. Having called for a ride, he was picked up by a friend and returned to his car. Elliott was on his way home for his mother's birthday party when he crossed paths with the intoxicated driver.

Nearly 5 years after that tragic accident, his parents continue the fight to save other families from the grief they have endured. Lobbying the New Jersey State Legislature, the Elliott's saw to fruition the drafting, passage and ultimate enactment of John's Law. The law ensures that individuals who pick up an arrested driver sign a document accepting custody. Additionally, it gives State Police the authorization to impound the automobile of an arrested driver for up to 12 hours.

Today, I am introducing legislation to encourage all states to enact legislation to require law enforcement officers to impound motor vehicles of those charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). The legislation would make states that adopt DWI vehicle impoundment programs eligible to receive federal grant funds under the existing Alcohol Impaired Countermeasures Program to help defray costs.

We are making important strides to eliminate the senseless deaths caused by the lethal mix of alcohol and automobiles. Annual deaths from drinking and driving have decreased from approximately 28,000 in 1980 to 16,068 in 2000. In 1982, 57 percent of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. In 2000, that percentage fell to 38 percent. However, much work remains to be done. Each death is a preventable one and I am sure this resolution will go a long way in ensuring deaths like Ensign Elliott's are prevented and families are saved from the pain the Elliotts and other families across the nation have endured.

I urge my colleagues in the House to support this legislation.

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