MADD Unveils 8-Point Plan to Jumpstart Stalled War on Drunk Driving
With Drunk Driving Death Toll Stagnant Since 1994, MADD, Members of Congress and NTSB Urge Renewed Fight Against America's Most Frequent Violent Crime MADD Action Plan Release Coincides with Introduction of Federal Legislation Targeting Higher-Risk Drivers and Capitol Hill Hearings on 6-Year Highway Funding Bill WASHINGTON, June 18 -- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today unveiled a new eight-point action plan to jumpstart the war against the most frequently committed violent crime in the nation -- drunk driving -- which has stalled in recent years as alcohol-related traffic deaths have stagnated between approximately 16,000 and 17,000 annually since 1994.
The release of the "Getting MADD All Over Again" report recommendations coincided with the announcement of new federal legislation to combat higher- risk drivers and the start of a series of congressional hearings to reauthorize the next six-year highway transportation funding bill.
Between 1980 -- the year MADD was founded -- and 1994, alcohol-related traffic deaths dropped by a dramatic 43 percent. Since then, the annual drunk driving death toll has stalled at approximately 16,000 to 17,000. In 2000, alcohol-related traffic deaths jumped by the largest percentage on record, and 2001 preliminary reports show virtually no change as crashes involving alcohol now represent 40 percent of total highway fatalities.
"The good news is that since 1980, an estimated 200,000 alcohol-related traffic deaths have been prevented," said MADD National President Millie I. Webb. "But, the bad news is that since 1994 the war on drunk driving has flatlined. We are losing ground and losing lives. But this war is not MADD's war; it's the nation's war. It is time to join together to jumpstart the stalled war on drunk driving and get moving in the right direction again.
The light that we thought we saw at the end of the tunnel appears to be the headlights of an oncoming crash caused by public and political complacency," added Webb. "The complacent plateau our nation has been riding since 1994 is unacceptable."
In response to this "complacent plateau," MADD convened a National Impaired Driving Summit in January to bring together leading experts to identify the most effective countermeasures to significantly cut alcohol- related traffic deaths and injuries. Based on those discussions, MADD today urged the nation to embrace the following top eight actions to sharply reduce alcohol-impaired driving:
1. Resuscitate the nation's efforts to prevent impaired driving by re-igniting public passion and calling on the citizens and the nation's leaders to "Get MADD All Over Again."
2. Increase DWI/DUI enforcement, especially the use of frequent, highly publicized sobriety checkpoints, which have been proven one of the most effective weapons in the war on drunk driving.
3. Enact primary enforcement seat belt laws in all states because seat belts are the best defense against impaired drivers. MADD recommends the federal government give states a brief incentive period, followed by withholding federal highway funds from states that do not enact primary belt laws.
4. Enact tougher, more comprehensive sanctions geared toward higher-risk drivers -- repeat offenders, drivers with high blood-alcohol levels, and DWI offenders driving with suspended licenses.
5. Develop a dedicated National Traffic Safety Fund to support ongoing and new priority traffic safety programs.
6. Reduce underage drinking -- the No. 1 youth drug problem -- through improving minimum drinking age laws, adopting tougher alcohol advertising standards and increasing enforcement and awareness of laws such as "zero tolerance drinking-driving" and sales to minors.
7. Increase beer excise taxes to equal the current excise tax on distilled spirits. Higher beer taxes are associated with lower rates of traffic fatalities and youth alcohol consumption.
8. Reinvigorate court-monitoring programs to identify shortcomings in the judicial system and produce higher conviction rates and stiffer sentences for offenders.
"In this new era of homeland security, we cannot forgo the domestic fight against drunk driving. If the estimated 300 Americans who died last week and the 300 that will likely die this week in alcohol-related crashes suddenly and violently perished all at once, the national crisis that threatens us every day would be clear," said MADD President Webb. "One by one Americans are needlessly falling through dangerous gaps in the drunk driver control system in nearly every state and community. This tragic problem is 100 percent preventable."
U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Michael DeWine (Ohio) and Patty Murray (Wash.), Congresswomen Nita Lowey (N.Y.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), National Transportation Safety Board Vice-Chairman Carol Carmody, and New York State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon joined MADD at today's Capitol Hill news conference.
"We made a great step in the right direction in 2000 when the Senate passed legislation that encouraged states to lower the legal blood alcohol content to .08," Senator DeWine said, "however, we must continue to educate the public on the strict laws that are now on the books and the dangers associated with drunk driving. We must not become complacent in the battle to drive down the number of drunk driving incidents."
The MADD Impaired Driving Summit found that a major focus of a renewed battle against drunk driving should be the "higher-risk driver" who is defined as someone convicted of a repeat offense for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI); convicted of DWI/DUI with a blood- alcohol concentration of .15 percent or higher; or convicted of a driving- while-suspended offense (DWS), where the suspension was the result of a conviction for driving under the influence.
"Impaired drivers do not recognize state boundaries, and neither should our drunk driving laws," said Congresswoman Lowey, who announced that she is introducing the Burton-Greene Higher-Risk Driver Act. "The lack of a national minimum standard for punishing repeat offenders and high risk drivers has created an easily exploitable, crazy patchwork of laws," Lowey said. "With the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths on the rise, Congress must pass my bill to establish a seamless approach to punishing repeat offenders."
The Burton-Greene Higher-Risk Impaired Driver Act creates increased penalties for higher-risk drivers:
* Driver's license suspension for not less than one year, including a complete ban on driving for not less than 90 days; and for the remainder of the license suspension period and prior to the issuance of a probational hardship or work permit license the offender must install a certified alcohol ignition interlock device on his/her vehicle
* Impoundment or immobilization of the motor vehicle for not less than 90 days; and for the remainder of the license suspension period the offender must install a certified alcohol ignition interlock device on his/her vehicle
* Alcohol assessment and appropriate treatment; if diagnosed with a substance abuse problem
* Imprisonment for not less than 10 days, an electronic monitoring device for not less than 100 days, or be assigned to a DWI/DUI special facility for 30 days
* Fined a minimum of $1000, with the proceeds to be used for state or local jurisdiction for impaired driving prevention and/or enforcement
* If the arrest resulted from a crash, requires restitution to victims of the crash
* Requirement to attend a victim impact panel if panel is available in the area
"The Safety Board supports MADD's call to target higher-risk drivers, pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, and increase dedicated transportation funds to save lives and prevent injuries on our highways," said NTSB Vice Chairman Carmody.
New York State Police Superintendent McMahon agreed that primary seat belt laws and stepped up enforcement are key to curbing alcohol-related traffic deaths. "The most effective way to discourage people from drinking and driving and encourage them to buckle up is through highly visible and proactive law enforcement," Superintendent McMahon said. "Sobriety checkpoints have proven to be one of our most effective tools for deterring and apprehending drunk drivers, and more frequent checkpoints on a national basis will help prevent many needless tragedies." McMahon pointed out that New York State was the first state in the nation to pass a primary seat belt law in 1984. "As a result, we have witnessed our compliance rate increase significantly, saving countless lives and heartache over the past 18 years."
MADD is sending copies of its "Getting MADD All Over Again" recommendations report to President Bush and every Member of Congress and Governor in the nation. The report is also posted on the MADD Web site: http://www.madd.org .
With approximately 600 chapters nationwide, MADD's mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.