Senator thinks money might be available to track DUIs in Kansas

TOPEKA — Funding might be available for a central repository to track DUIs, a state senator said today.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said he thinks the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation might be able to come up with the estimated $3 million. The Eagle reported earlier this month that Owens was working on finding money for the repository.

Owens has been a strong proponent of a statewide system to track DUI arrests and convictions. In 2008, 4-year-old Gisele Mijares and her mother were killed in Wichita while they were walking to Gisele’s school.

Prosecutors charged the driver in the crash with his fifth DUI, but the state’s driver’s license database showed only two convictions after the accident.

Owens has said that the repository is critical to reducing DUIs across the state.

Owens, chairman of the Kansas DUI Commission, formed after the accident in Wichita, has said that other steps the state might take won’t matter much if prosecutors and judges don’t know the full DUI history of drivers.

The commission issued a report also calling for tougher criminal penalties and ignition interlocks for all offenders. Interlocks are devices that test a driver’s alcohol level. If the driver fails to blow a clean test, his or her car won’t start.

The estimated cost to implement all of the commission’s suggested is $11 million. Owens says that figure illustrates the severity of drunken driving in Kansas. If DUIs weren’t such a widespread problem, he told The Eagle earlier this month, the cost wouldn’t be so high. Legislators have bristled at the idea of spending $11 million.

Owens said he hopes to know for sure by next week whether funding will be available for the repository, part of Senate Bill 6.