PHILADELPHIA – John’s Law is poised to become the law of the land.

The New Jersey drunken-driving legislation inspired by the death of Navy Ensign John Elliott was included in the federal transportation bill passed by Congress. President Bush has promised to sign the bill. The legislation provides federal grants to encourage other states to enact John’s Law, which gives police the authority to impound a drunken driver’s car.

“It’s exciting,” said Elliott’s father, Bill. “It’s one of those bittersweet occasions that is a victory.” Elliott became a crusader against drunken driving after his son died in 2000, lobbying to pass two landmark bills in New Jersey named for his son. The first was the car impoundment law; the second allowed police to hold drunken drivers until they sobered up.

John Elliott, a recent Naval Academy graduate, was killed in Salem County by a drunken driver who had been arrested earlier in the evening, then released. The driver, Michael Pangle, also was killed. Three hours after his arrest, he was released to the custody of a friend while still intoxicated. The friend took Pangle back to his car. Under the new federal law, states could enact John’s Law to help them meet a set of criteria necessary to win federal drunken-driving prevention and other law enforcement grants.

John’s Law was introduced in Congress by Sen. Jon S. Corzine, D-N.J., and Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J.

“In New Jersey, John’s Law has saved lives and become an important tool for law enforcement,” Corzine said in a statement Friday, after Congress passed the bill.

Bill Elliott said the goal for his advocacy has been to allow his son’s memory to live on in campaigns and laws that could potentially save lives.

“It’s an absolute fitting, living tribute to his memory,” he said of the federal bill. “I think it accomplishes what we set out to accomplish.”

(c) 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-07-30-05 1953EDT

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