MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving Gains Momentum
Legislative victories on alcohol ignition interlocks in Arizona and Illinois applauded as new national data show drunk driving fatalities on the rise
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2007: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced significant state legislative victories in Arizona and Illinois that mandate alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, moving one step closer to its goal of a drunk-driving free America. The legislative progress is part of a bold new offensive in the war against drunk driving -- MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, launched in November 2006.
"Our vision of eliminating drunk driving is one step closer to becoming a reality," said MADD National President Glynn Birch. "As part of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, we will continue to work nationwide until every state does what Arizona and Illinois have done."
MADD is also calling for congressional hearings to develop a comprehensive strategy built upon solutions proven to work. MADD's National Board of Directors met recently with members of Congress to champion the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and lobby for increased focus on the issue of drunk driving.
The Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving has four elements: full implementation of alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, intensive high-visibility law enforcement, development of advanced vehicle technologies to prevent drunk driving and grassroots support led by MADD and its 400+ affiliates.
The need for the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving has been underscored by a recent federal report showing that drunk driving deaths are at their highest point since 1992, according to preliminary figures.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities involving a driver with a .08 blood alcohol content or higher rose from 13,613 in 2005 to 13,990 in 2006, representing almost a 3 percent increase. At the same time, overall traffic fatalities were down slightly by 0.3 percent.
"It's clear that more of the same will not help in the fight to make our roads safer," Birch said. "We still have states without the most effective tools in place to deter and stop drunk driving -- sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlocks. These tools stop higher-risk offenders and first-time drunk drivers. There is no justification for not using the tools we know will save lives and prevent injuries."
MADD's aggressive legislative strategy aims to strengthen drunk driving laws in all 50 states. Last month, the Arizona legislature and Governor took a bold step for public safety by mandating alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The Illinois legislature also passed interlock legislation last month, which awaits Governor Blagojevich's signature before becoming law. Louisiana, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are actively considering interlock laws.
An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle's ignition system. When a driver wishes to start his or her vehicle, he or she must first blow into the device. The vehicle will not start unless the driver's alcohol level is below a pre-set blood alcohol content (BAC).
"Alcohol ignition interlocks, when installed and monitored, save thousands of lives and help save society money in part by giving offenders the ability to drive without endangering the public," said MADD CEO Chuck Hurley.
Multiple studies have shown alcohol ignition interlocks are up to 90 percent effective in keeping both first-time and repeat offenders from recommitting the crime as long as the interlock is installed on the vehicle. Furthermore, 65 percent of the public supports the mandatory installation of alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.
Early results from New Mexico, the first state to mandate ignition interlocks as part of sentencing for all convicted drunk drivers, make the case for a national alcohol ignition interlock policy if reducing the number of drunk drivers on roadways is a priority.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation reported that alcohol-related injury crashes dropped by 20 percent and overall alcohol-related crashes declined by more than 17 percent in the first year the state adopted mandatory interlock legislation.
Despite a 40 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities since MADD was founded in 1980, the threat of one of the nation's most deadly crimes still remains. Last year, nearly 14,000 people were killed by drunk drivers with an illegal BAC of .08 or above and countless others were injured. This represents more than 1,000 families every month that must live with the tragic consequences of drunk driving.
Founded in 1980, MADD's mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. MADD is a 501c(3) non-profit, grassroots organization with approximately 400 affiliates and 2 million members and supporters nationwide. For more information, please visit http://www.madd.org/ or call (800) GET-MADD.