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Thursday, December 13, 2007
MADD Proposes Comprehensive Alcohol Ignition Interlock Laws
This holiday season, American families will be sharing the roads with over roughly 2.8 million convicted drunk drivers with three or more convictions, with more than 600,000 of those drivers having five or more convictions. To prevent previous offenders from driving their vehicle after drinking, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is urging every state to pass life-saving, comprehensive alcohol ignition interlock laws.
Glynn Birch, national president of MADD, said, "In order to keep those first-time offenders from becoming the repeat offenders, ignition interlocks must be implemented in every state nationwide." Glynn’s 21-month-old son was killed by a three-time repeat offender, driving on a revoked license, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .26. "Had an interlock law been in place in Florida in 1988, my son, Courtney, might be alive today."
The United States is preparing for a major holiday law enforcement crackdown on drunk driving, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is marking the first anniversary of the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. Several additional states are working to add such comprehensive alcohol ignition interlock laws to their ledgers.
"It's time to get repeat offenders off our nation's roadways and it is time to limit their drunk driving practice time behind the wheel," Birch said. Each year, nearly 1 million of the 1.4 million drunk driving arrests are first-time offenders, and the remaining are repeat offenders, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (1995) and the FBI (2005).
The Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving has made significant progress in just one year: four states currently have comprehensive ignition interlock laws and a further 30 are considering such legislation in the 2008 legislative sessions. When installed on an offender's vehicle, the alcohol ignition interlock, a breath test device linked to a vehicle's ignition system, has proven to be up to 90 percent effective in averting repeat drunk driving offenses.
"The goal must be to deter, not just apprehend," said president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Adrian Lund. "Interlocks would be the ultimate deterrent if they could be applied to every driver. Then we wouldn’t have to try to convince impaired drivers not to take to the road. We could use the technology to prevent them from doing so."
Besides supporting enforcement, such as checkpoints and the current technology of interlocks, MADD’s Campaign supports the exploration and development of cutting-edge technology.
Recently, MADD presented a state-by-state progress report which features each state's drunk driving fatalities, and points out efforts to pass ignition interlock laws, as well as sobriety checkpoints. Five states - Alabama, Hawaii, Maine, South Dakota and Vermont – do not currently have interlock laws. Eleven other states hinder their law enforcement abilities by not allowing sobriety checkpoints. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that alcohol-related crashes and fatalities went down by 20 percent when sobriety checkpoints are visible and well publicized.
The legislative push works in conjunction with the start of an additional, very effective method of thwarting drunk driving, and a key component of the Campaign – intensive, high-visibility law enforcement. MADD, the Governors Highway Safety Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police will unite behind the NHTSA’s national crackdown, called Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. Thousands of law enforcement officers throughout the nation will be concentrating on stopping drunk drivers this holiday season. Each year, over 1,000 people are killed and countless others are injured during the holidays. In December, an $8 million national advertising blitz will notify drivers that if they drive drunk, they will be arrested and prosecuted.
Nicole Nason, NHTSA Administrator and honorary chairperson of the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, said, "Drunk driving is a deadly disregard for human life and it's absolutely against the law. If you drive drunk, you will be arrested."
Besides supporting enforcement, MADD’s Campaign supports developing advanced technology. A Blue Ribbon panel formed by MADD, NHTSA, the auto industry and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is developing a cooperative research plan to advance vehicle-based technology to prevent drunk driving. Demonstration cars produced by several car manufacturers will not start if the operator has an illegal blood alcohol level. Right now, alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers will make sure that those who violate the public trust by driving drunk are prevented from doing it again.
"Automakers are global leaders in research and development, with thousands of auto engineers committed to using innovation to enhance vehicle safety. For Alliance members, a top priority is working to eliminate drunk driving, so we are pleased to join MADD, the federal government and others in this shared effort," said Dave McCurdy, President & CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "New technology may provide solutions to the critical problem of drunk driving, and Alliance members are encouraging a new national dialogue and evaluation of technology's potential to significantly reduce the tragedies created by this public health crisis."
This holiday season, MADD is asking the public to Tie One On For Safety, in support of the Campaign and increased enforcement, by displaying a MADD red ribbon on their vehicles. Over 6 million red ribbons will be distributed this year, and are available at local MADD affiliates in the United States.
"We know that today 1 out of 3 Americans will be impacted by a drunk driving crash during their lifetime," said Bill Windsor, Associate Vice President of Safety for Nationwide Insurance. "This campaign is about saving lives and protecting our loved ones."
The state-by-state progress report is available in PDF format at www.madd.org.
Research definitely shows that first time offenders already have alcohol abuse issues, so MADD is calling for alcohol assessment and treatment for all convicted drunk drivers. The National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse approximates that 17.6 million people abuse or are dependent on alcohol. "Our estimates of three and five-time repeat offenders don't even take into account this entire group, but rather just those that have been arrested and convicted for drunk driving," said Birch.
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