State Yanks Keys From Unlicensed Drivers

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Motorists who drive with revoked or suspended licenses will be without a vehicle for a month under new impound laws that took effect Aug. 12.

Law enforcement officers can now impound vehicles when the driver is stopped for:

  • Driving on a revoked driver's license;
  • Driving with a suspended license, if the suspension was the result of a DUI conviction;
  • Driving with a suspended license, if the suspension was due to an accumulation of points against the license; and
  • Driving while suspended, based on a previous conviction of driving suspended.

If a driver is involved in an accident and does not have a valid driver's license due to suspension or revocation, or has no proof of insurance, impoundment is mandatory.

Department of Public Safety Sgts. John Whetten and Rich Alvarez said that so far, no vehicles have been impounded in northern Gila County in either the Payson or Roosevelt districts.

"We had a test program on Highway 87," Whetten said, "and Monday (Aug. 29) each officer was brought up to speed on the law and our procedures."

DPS officers expects to see exorbitant numbers of vehicles being impounded, said DPS Officer Lt. Bob Ticer.

Recent studies have shown that implementation and enforcement of similar laws are effective tools to discourage unlicensed drivers.

"Our goal here is to reduce injuries and fatalities," Ticer said. "Studies show (these measures result in a) significant reduction in crashes."

Vehicles will be towed and held by the tow companies that have contracts with DPS. Owners will be responsible for all towing and storage fees associated with the impoundment, Ticer said.

On average, the storage fee is $15 a day, and the towing charge is about $100, which means that the owner of an impounded vehicle will pay approximately $550 to reclaim their vehicle.

DPS recently completed a three-month pilot impoundment program, enforcing the current statute with three highway patrol squads. During the 90-day detail, officers impounded 36 vehicles.

The statute will change again on Nov. 1, 2005, requiring officers to impound vehicles for 30 days when a driver is arrested for either extreme DUI (alcohol content .15 or above); aggravated DUI; or minor consumption while driving.

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