Student presses for drunk-driving legislation

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A Delta College student is asking California state legislators for help.
Harry Okada, a Valley Springs resident, was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver several years ago. Since his recovery, Okada has pushed for California state legislators to impose stiffer laws on repeated drunk driving offenders. He has pressed the possible approval of a law similar to that of New York, to seize the cars of multiple DUI offenders. This law has drastically reduced drunk driving offenses in New York.

The accident that nearly took Okada’s life took place five years ago on Kettleman Lane east of Lodi. The man believed to be at fault for the accident was Stockton resident William Glen Johnson, 39, who was killed in the crash. He had four prior offenses for driving under the influence.

As a result of the accident, Okada remained in a coma for one month in St. Joseph’s Hospital. He suffered serious head injuries and became visually impaired. He spent seven months in Lodi Memorial West where he had to learn to talk and walk again. Okada still suffers from memory loss.

Okada commented on the ongoing frustrations of achieving his goal, “I’ve been trying [to pass legislation] through government officials but I feel like I’m talking to a wall.”

Okada received letters from several government officials including Senator Time Leslie and Assembly Member Michael J. Machado.

“The New York City confiscation program sounds interesting and it is worth looking at for possible implementation in California,” read a letter Okada received from assemblyman Tim “Rico” Oller. Assembly rules allow its members to only introduce 15 pieces of legislation a year.

There are several steps recommended by government officials when citizens attempt to pass legislation. The first step is to start a petition within the local community. It is also important in locating an organization that would support the legislative idea; acquiring the support of lobbyists in the state capital would be a great advantage. The petition and any other valuable information should then be dropped off at the office of the Senator/Assemblyman. A representative from the office would then meet the citizen(s) at a later date to inform of the progress, if any, being made. It is also ideal to follow up with letters.

Several years ago, Okada asked MADD, Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers, for their assistance. According to Okada, the organization held a meeting concerning the issue and informed Okada that they could not assist. The nonprofit organization felt that Okada’s legislative persistence would not succeed.

“People should research nonprofit organizations before donating money to see where their money goes,” said Okada.

Every several months, Okada will attempt to recontact officials through e-mail, letters and sometimes phone calls.

In the meantime Okada plans to keep talking to others and spread the impact drunk driving has had on his life.

“If I could keep one person from drinking and driving I would be happy,” said Okada.