Get tougher on drunk driving

By Barry Martin

There are a few facts about drunk driving that I find alarming: Every 53 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies in a drunk-driving crash; and, a drunk driver will drive drunk 80 times before the first arrest. Closer to home, in 2011, there were 277 lives lost in an alcohol-related crash, and more than 31,000 DUI arrests in Georgia.

The end of summer signals an increase in drunk-driving crashes, as do holidays. With the Labor Day holiday a week away, I am reminded of the July 4th weekend and the seven car pile-up in Clayton County that resulted in six DUI arrests. This left me speechless. How and why could something like this happen?

MADD Georgia works very hard throughout the state to stop drunk driving, help victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. We also have found effective ways to reduce drunk-driving crashes, injuries and fatalities. These countermeasures, part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, include high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, and advanced technology to prevent a drunk driver (with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 and above) from operating a vehicle.

Georgia is one of 32 states that conduct sobriety checkpoints. These programs, such as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” have been very effective. The key to their success is the combination of high-visibility enforcement with strong public awareness messages. Through Sept. 2, Georgia will conduct its Labor Day Crackdown with sobriety checkpoints throughout the state.

Such checkpoints were also conducted over the Independence Day holiday. According to media reports, the Georgia State Patrol made more than 16,600 traffic stops and arrested more than 300 people for driving under the influence. Traffic crashes over the July 4th holiday reportedly accounted for 11 deaths. Troopers investigated 785 accidents that resulted in 374 injuries.

Georgia has to do more. MADD’s campaign also advocates for states to pass strict drunk-driving laws that require ignition interlocks for all offenders with BACs of .08 or greater. More than 115 million Americans are now protected by these laws. Statistics show states that have passed such legislation have reduced drunk-driving deaths by more than 30 percent. Twenty states have enacted such legislation.

Currently, Georgia law requires an ignition interlock only for repeat offenders. MADD urges Georgia lawmakers to focus their attention on solving the state’s drunk-driving problem by passing legislation that would require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. Lawmakers have the opportunity to amend House Bill 671 in 2014 to do so. This is the next step necessary to eliminate drunk driving in Georgia.

MADD also asks that if you are celebrating with alcohol this Labor Day weekend, please plan ahead and designate a sober driver, make arrangements for a taxi or car service, or spend the night at a friend’s home or a hotel.

Barry Martin is executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Georgia.

14 comments Add your comment

Jim Chaput

August 25th, 2013
8:31 am

MADD is just another dysfunctional organization that has lost all perspective. They should shut up and go away.

An observer

August 25th, 2013
7:55 am

We have a culture of drinking and government loves to issue liquor taxes to raise money.

George Santayana

August 25th, 2013
7:40 am

You will never solve DUIs by attacking drinking and tougher enforcement. As long as there are parking spaces in front of bars, people will drink and drive. If we can solve the driving part of this problem, we can make progress towards safer roads. Zoning sets limits on how close an establishment serving beer, wine and liquor can be to places like schools, churches and residences. This makes finding property to locate a pub difficult. If it were easier to have a pub in every neighborhood we could all walk there. Walkable society is one that doesn’t drink and drive. The beltline is an example of a project that should reduce drinking and driving. When we have better transit options, we all will walk more, drive less and make the world a safer and healthier place.

Shamehia

August 24th, 2013
7:22 pm

A lot of the alcohol connected to DUI is consumed in bars and restaurants. Why can’t the establishments be more proactive in preventing drunk drivers from walking out the door? For example, maybe before the second or third round is served ask who in the group is the driver and cut him/her off. That might offend a few patrons and reduce some bar tabs but it might also help save lives.