Community Commentary: Focus on DUI prevention, not punishment

It won't surprise regular readers to learn that Laguna Beach has a high rate of DUI arrests. Laguna Beach is a popular destination, and there's nothing wrong with a legal adult having a few alcoholic beverages, as long as he or she isn't driving.

Indeed, most of our local hotels and restaurants depend on this income for their livelihood, income that leads to critical tax revenue for the city.

Laguna Beach funds its police department, and a lot of law enforcement time and money goes into patrolling the streets and running DUI checkpoints. It becomes a vicious cycle where a person might drink to the point of being impaired, and then get behind the wheel, only to be arrested by a policeman whose salary was partially paid by the drinker.

It's clear that the goal must be to prevent drunk driving. Having a situation where drivers drive drunk and hoping to catch them before someone is hurt is a recipe for disaster. The preferred investment should be on prevention, not punishment.

It's hard to keep out-of-town drivers from drinking and driving, but there are ways to limit drunk driving among our Laguna Beach residents.

For residents of legal drinking age, the city is to be commended for offering a resident taxi voucher program. For $3, a group of up to four people can take a cab ride between any two points within Laguna Beach. Businesses should promote and encourage this option.

Unfortunately, many of the companies listed as program participants haven't done a good job explaining the program to their drivers. My vouchers have on more than one occasion been refused by a cab driver. Another problem with the program is the companies that participate don't seem to be the ones with the most cabs in town. The voucher program is a great idea, but it just needs some help with the execution.

Another suggestion to prevent drunk driving is extending the hours of operation of the city shuttle. If the city shuttle ran until 10 p.m., more locals might go downtown and spend more money. Sunday service would also help residents retrieve cars left behind Saturday night, and even to go to the beach.

Mozambique advertises its own local ride service to and from the restaurant. Why not partner with restaurants to offer convenient shuttle hours? This would encourage business.

TIM TEMPLETON is a Laguna Beach resident.

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