'Kern Under the Influence' Part V: Your choice


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    In the final segment of "Kern Under the Influence,” after spending the last four days pointing out problems, tonight Eyewitness News is going to look at solutions.

    As this series has pointed out all week, there are many problems with the system when it comes to keeping drunk drivers off the streets of Kern County.

    Most of the solutions would take huge government action, but one solution is in your hands.

    Prosecutors, victims, police officers, and injury attorneys will all tell you the same thing about impaired driving: it is 100-percent preventable.

    But preventable as it may be, people keep doing it and families, like the Benges, keep paying the price.

    "The memory that's burned in my, in my memory bank forever, is I saw my wife take her last breath," Michael Benge said.

    Benge's wife, Jada, was killed by a drunk driver while his family was on their way home from a trip to the lake. He had to raise his three daughters on his own, helping to pick out all three of their wedding dresses.

    "You know, it's heartbreaking because their mother should've been there to do those things," Benge said. "And just by some really awful choices, that was taken away forever."

    So, what can we do to prevent more stories like Benge's?

    Many suggest stiffer penalties, forcing impaired drives to do serious jail time.

    But Kern County Deputy District Attorney Kim Richardson believes that's unlikely.

    "The state of our state is they are trying to remove people from the prison population and allow people to get out," she said.

    If DUI drivers aren't going to jail, the public needs to be protected in another way.

    Personal injury attorney Matt Clark suggests changing outdated insurance laws to ensure victims don't pay for the actions of impaired drivers.

    "You gotta show proof that you now have 100,000 bucks’ worth of insurance before we give you your license because you've already committed a felony. Right? And I don't know why that hasn't happened," he said.

    Considering minimum insurance laws in California haven't changed since they were adopted in 1984, it's unlikely this will happen, either.

    So, we look to law enforcement.

    Sgt. Jeff Saso with Bakersfield Police Department’s traffic division said police are already doing all they can and so it is important for DUI prevention to start at home.

    "It’s coming upon us to be good friends and family by not allowing our friends to drive drunk," Saso said.

    Which brings us to the only solution Assistant District Attorney Jim Simson believes can start right now: All of us deciding to make the right choice and help others make the right choice.

    "When that happens, then we'll really start to see a change," Simson said.

    So, the next time you're faced with that choice, Benge wants you to think of something before you make the wrong choice.

    "So many people say, well, I didn't think it would happen to me, or that will never happen to me, and I'm here to tell you that it happens way too often. And you would not want to be in my shoes to watch your spouse, your loved one, take their last breath." he said.

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