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DRUNK-DRIVING VIDEOS STIRRING UP CONTROVERSY.

Byline: Teresa Jimenez Daily News Staff Writer

Depending on who you ask, the two videotapes that Ventura attorney Ron Jackson is selling on drinking and driving either help the guilty get out of a citation or scare people into thinking twice before getting behind the wheel.

The tapes, being sold through a mail order service in Connecticut for $19.95 each, give viewers legal and health information in a question-and-answer format with Jackson posing the questions. He has circulated fliers at businesses across Ventura County and is considering other marketing plans.

Linda Oxenreider, president of the Ventura County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and state chairwoman for the organization, said she became concerned after reading a flier left at her office. The tapes advertised are titled ``Booze Busters'' and ``Have I Had Too Much to Drink?''

``I certainly understand that if you're arrested for drunk driving, you have the right to a lawyer and the court process,'' Oxenreider said.

``But this guy is trying to teach you how to keep driving, how not to get arrested,'' she said.

``And this dangerous driver is still on the road. Would you appreciate it if this guy hit a car with your family in it?''

But Jackson, who recently began selling the tapes, said MADD's reaction to the videos is unwarranted.

Jackson said he was willing to show local media and MADD one of the tapes, which is about 40 minutes long, if it would resolve questions or concerns.

``There's a lot of information on the tapes, and some of it is technical,'' Jackson said. ``I think it's a good product.''

Information on the number of videos sold was unavailable because they have only been marketed for a few days, Jackson said. The distributor would not release information on sales.

Jackson, who said he handles only drunk-driving cases, added that while he does give viewers advice on what they should do if questioned by an officer, he also tells viewers how alcohol enters the blood stream. He said that information is meant to get drinkers to think before driving.

``Unfortunately, many people decide to get behind the wheel based on how they feel. They have to understand the factors,'' Jackson said.

``They need to know the formula to determine blood-alcohol concentration, and we go through those,'' he said. ``What we encourage is that people make a much more conservative decision.''

Still, Oxenreider said the flier advertising the videotapes clearly gives the message that viewers will be able to beat the system with Jackson's tips. She noted that the flier includes comments from Jackson's clients who say they followed the attorney's advice and avoided a citation.

Oxenreider plans to contact all local law enforcement agencies about the videos so they're aware of the tips.

Drinking and driving remains an important concern for law enforcement. Within the jurisdiction of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, for instance, deputies arrested 1,273 people in 1995 on suspicion of driving under the influence. The Ventura County office of the California Highway Patrol made an added 1,407 DUI arrests in 1995.

Dave Cockrill, the CHP spokesman for the county, said that while he hasn't seen the tapes, the advice would probably have little impact since officers are highly trained in spotting drivers under the influence.

``We have the expertise to tell whether or not drivers are drunk,'' Cockrill said.

``If they refuse to take a Breathalyzer test, it's a judgment call on the officer,'' he said. ``But all these things are taken into account: their driving, the tests, symptoms - if they have red eyes or slurred speech.''

Jackson said the judgment calls aren't always fair to drivers who may have had only a drink or two and out of nervousness give answers to officers' questions that make them look guilty.

Often, these drivers refuse to take a Breathalyzer test because they think it's the best thing to do, and wait until they get back to the station, Jackson said. When they arrive, the alcohol that perhaps hadn't entered the blood stream earlier has had time to go through the system. And by then, a blood-alcohol level that may have been below the legal limit of .08 then exceeds that level, Jackson said.

``Over the years, I've seen people who should not be convicted of this. What I'm trying to do is not get people to convict themselves,'' he said. ``When they're pulled over, there's an assumption that they're under the influence. The driver has to prove that he's innocent. I don't think that's right.''

Jackson said his tapes are for anyone who drives and drinks and not for people looking to drive drunk and get away with it.

``This is not pro-drinking and driving. It's just the opposite,'' he said.

SAFE-DRIVING TIPS

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is asking people to take safety precautions on Super Bowl Sunday, the No. 1 drinking day in the United States, Ventura County chapter president Linda Oxenreider said.

Among MADD's tips are:

Make sure children are safely buckled in cars.

Appoint a designated driver.

Avoid excessive drinking.

``Besides the problems with driving drunk, alcohol is usually behind most violence,'' Oxenreider said. ``It also can be a stepping stone to other drugs for teens.''

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Box: (Ran in Conejo and Simi) SAFE-DRIVING TIPS (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 26, 1997
Words:884
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