The Christmas season is one of the times each year when families separated by miles of highway make concerted efforts to gather together in celebration. Crowded kitchens and bulging guest rooms are part of the holiday ambience.
Of course, gathering the family together often means travelling the nation’s highways with lots of other drivers. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), together with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have recently released figures which show that of the 10,228 drunken driving fatalities which occurred in 2010, more than 400 occurred in the final weeks of December. Getting to Grandma’s house should be safe, but according to MADD it could be much safer.
Begun by a mother who lost her own daughter to a drunken driving accident, MADD is behind the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. The campaign recently reached its five-year mark. To honor the milestone, the group published its Report to the Nation. In the report, the group makes highway safety improvement suggestions and calls for Congress to take action on legislation which could fund drunk driver-proof automobiles as well as fund more traditional DUI countermeasures. The NHTSA and MADD agree that technology which could make drunk driving an impossibility is an important and achievable goal.
The groups also point to the tried and true methods of making the nation’s highways safe from inebriated drivers. Scheduling saturation patrols on the highways has been statistically proven to reduce drunken driving fatalities. Boosting the number of patrol cars on the roadways during the holiday season would make them safer for families.
Establishing sobriety checkpoints is another proven approach to deterring and catching drunk drivers on our highways. When such measures are publicized, drunken driving fatalities are shown to drop by as much as 20 percent.
The MADD Report assigns state-by-state ratings based on each state’s progress toward the eradication of drunk driving. States which earn the maximum five-star rating have put into place the proven countermeasures such as increased enforcement presence, no-refusal activities and sobriety checkpoints.
The non-profit group would also like to see more states adopt the all-offender laws demanding ignition interlocks. Two states have already put the all-offender policy into place with measurable success. By implementing the laws, Arizona saw a 51 percent reduction in drunk driving and Oregon witnessed a 52 percent reduction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), implementing ignition interlocks prevents repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 67 percent.
The ignition interlock technology could be replaced with more passive technology that is able to detect a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) each time they get behind the wheel to drive. The technology still needs further funding, but could be the key to completely eliminating drunk drivers on our nation’s roads and highways. That is why MADD has made its call to Congress for funding part of its national report. Drunk driving deaths are a 100 percent preventable family tragedy. Thank you to MADD for its tireless efforts to reach the day when such tragedies will be no more.