Gibson fiasco raises driving safety issues

That Mel Gibson was allegedly driving nearly twice the legal speed limit while under the influence of alcohol is what troubles many.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Since actor/director Mel Gibson’s arrest for alleged drunken driving and reported anti-Semitic tirade, Malibu has been one of the most talked about cities in the media outside of the Middle East. Several residents wrote to The Malibu Times suggesting that the media coverage of the situation has been overdone, while others suggested ways that Gibson could repair his relation with the Jewish community. And one councilmember suggested this week that the incident could put a focus on Pacific Coast Highway safety issues.

“It’s a very dangerous highway and we need to take extra care to make it safer,” said Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who is one of Malibu’s representatives on a task force headed by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl that is addressing safety issues on the highway. “So maybe something good can come out of this.”

For several years, Malibu residents and city officials have attempted to tackle the issue of safety on Pacific Coast Highway. The highway has been the scene of several deaths to drivers, pedestrians and bicycle riders. Last year, a bill was passed by both houses of the state Legislature to double fines for speeding on the highway, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, stating he had not seen evidence that doubling the fine would lessen the amount of speeders on the highway.

According to Malibu/Lost Hills’ Sheriff’s officials, Gibson was traveling at 87 mph while driving on Pacific Coast Highway from Moonshadows toward his Serra Retreat home in the early morning hours of July 28. He was also reported to have a blood-alcohol level of .12 percent. The legal limit in California is .08. Although a Sheriff’s spokesperson at first said that Gibson was arrested without incident, a partial deputy’s report later appeared on the Web site,, stating that Gibson had made several anti-Semitic comments during the arrest. Gibson has since apologized for his comments to the Jewish people through a press release.


“What he said was wrong and an affront to many people, but he has the right to say those things,” Conley Ulich said. “Hopefully he can learn from his mistake and become a better person, and hopefully the media can focus on other things.”

The media attention on the matter has been large, both by entertainment and news sources, triggering some Malibu residents to beg for it to stop.

“Can we please give the press over the Mel Gibson story a rest?” Malibu resident Jill Ransberg wrote to The Malibu Times. “The media is being unfair to Mr. Gibson because he’s a public figure-and that’s not right.”

Ransberg, who wrote that she was Jewish, said she did not care what Gibson thought of Jewish people and further wrote that other Jews should not either.

Jewish Malibu resident Paul Spiegel wrote to the newspaper that Gibson has “earned an opportunity for forgiveness.”

“The issue is what happens from here,” Spiegel wrote. “Gibson has taken full responsibility for his actions with no excuses. If his remorse is sincere and if he takes the actions that will repair the damage done, Mel Gibson still has at least one Jewish friend in Malibu.”

Last Thursday Gibson was officially charged with misdemeanor drunken driving, driving with an elevated blood-alcohol level and having an open container of alcohol in his car. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28 in the Malibu Courthouse.

Attorney Larry Longo, a Malibu resident who has worked on drunken driving cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney, said last week that there are many things a defense attorney would do to challenge a drunken driving charge.

“At the arraignment, he’ll usually file a motion for disclosure, seeing about the accuracy of Breathalyzer,” Longo said. “He’ll also ask for a whole lot of other things; the logs, perhaps 9-1-1 calls. He’ll also question how they happened to stop this guy.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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