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OKLAHOMA CITY - The summer of 1997 was a tragic season for Tulsa's East Central High School. One of the school's outstanding students was killed by a drunk driver.
Seventeen-year-old Greg Gifford was driving through a construction zone with friends when they ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A drunk driver traveling at speeds of 90 miles an hour and upwards, plowed into the side of the teenagers' car, killing Greg and critically injuring another student.
The man whose negligence killed Greg Gifford already had two DUIs on his record at the time of the accident. He is now serving a life term in prison, but the whole incident could have been avoided had a proposal by Senator Kevin Easley (D-Tulsa) and Representative Mary Easley (D-Tulsa) had been in place.
The lawmakers are introducing "Greg's Law" for the 1998 Legislative Session. The bill calls for the forfeiture of a person's vehicle upon a second conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The bill is patterned after an Ohio law.
"We have to take the keys out of the hands of repeat DUI offenders before they kill or maim the innocent bystander," said Senator Easley. "It's not enough to take away a license. We must remove the drunk driver's mode of transportation altogether."
"Greg was a popular student and accomplished athlete," said Representative Easley. "His death had a profound impact on the school and the community. His classmates in particular have pledged that Greg's death not be in vain. They have thrown their support behind this legislation as a show of respect for Greg's memory."
The bill's authors added language to the bill aimed at heading off certain liability concerns involving situations where a drunk driver is arrested in a borrowed vehicle. The owner of a loaned vehicle would only lose his or her automobile if he or she knowingly gave their vehicle to a person with a history of drinking and driving arrests.
Easley and Easley have also filed a companion piece of legislation to address a growing problem in Oklahoma. The bill would ultimately lengthen the distance required by state law that a bar or tavern must be from a school or church.
Currently, the front door of a bar can not be closer than 300 feet from the front door of a church or school. The Easley bill would change the distance criteria from front door to front door to property line to property line.
"This 'front door to front door' policy is not working," said Senator Easley. "We are seeing not just one bar in the vicinity of school or church, but rather clusters of them. These concentrations appear to fly in the face of the spirit of the location restrictions placed on drinking establishments."
Both legislators are committed to seeing these important pieces of legislation passed into law. Said Representative Easley, "The safety and well-being of our children could depend on the success of these measures."- 30 -