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MADD 2014 Report to the Nation

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving test scores are in and it looks like Montana and Rhode Island are the slackers in a class of 51 hard-working pupils.

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By Sarah Peters

01/22/14

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Mothers Against Drunk Driving subjected all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., to a five-point evaluation, grading states on use of technology, legislation and the support of law enforcement officers in the mission to end drunk driving. The results were released in the organization’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving: 2014 Report to the Nation earlier this month. 

“The new year really is a time for new beginnings and a time to refocus,” MADD Chief Executive Officer Debbie Weir said. “As always, our No. 1 priority is to reduce fatalities caused by drunk driving crashes. We are very focused on the new legislative year and trying to get better laws that are going to help save those lives.”

The report calls out states that are behind the curve, such as Montana and Rhode Island, for not implementing life-saving measures such as mandatory ignition interlock devices for offenders or sobriety checkpoints.

“We challenge every state, if you haven’t reached zero [deaths], you have to do more,” 

However, the report is far from all bad news—the majority of the states received a four-point or five-point rating.

“We applaud everything that [the people with MADD] do,” said Chris Cochran, assistant director of marketing and public affairs for the California Office of Traffic Safety. 

“It’s our observation that the turnaround in the DUI issue came about when MADD was started,” Cochran continued. “Before that, most everybody—certainly the public and to a certain extent law enforcement, the legislature and the courts—considered DUIs an unfortunate occurrence and just something you really shouldn’t do.”

California was one of 20 states that received a 4-point status. The state lost a point for not having a law mandating all first-time and repeat offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. A pilot program currently covers just four counties—Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare.

“A strength is that California is moving in the direction of seeing [interlock devices] as a potential deterrent,” MADD California State Executive Director Mark Dandeneau said. “But, the downfall of that same strength is that it’s only a pilot program. Our work over the next year is to push for it to become mandatory statewide for first offenders.”

The highest rating of five-points went to just ten states for successfully addressing all five issues MADD identified as most important in their campaign: ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints, administrative license revocation, child endangerment and no-refusal events. 

“With these strategies, we’ve really focused on what we can do today that’s going to make a difference in saving lives and preventing injuries,” Weir said. “And, then in the future, what’s going to totally eliminate drunk driving.” 

Ignition Interlocks

MADD awards the first point to states for successful implementation of ignition interlock devices in the vehicles of all first time and repeat offenders with blood alcohol levels at or above the legal limit. At the time the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving was launched in 2006, only one state had an interlock law in place. That number increased to 20 states by 2012, according to the report. 

“We rated all 50 states and the District of Columbia on a five-star scale, but it’s important to note that not all the stars are equal,” MADD Chief Government Affairs Officer JT Griffin said. “We believe that the best countermeasure currently available is the ignition interlock device and to make sure that it is put on all convicted drunk drivers’ vehicles.”

Approximately 305,000 vehicles have interlock devices installed nationwide as of July 2013, according to the report. 

Sobriety Checkpoints

The second area of evaluation is the use of high visibility law enforcement, including DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols. A total of 38 states and the nation’s capitol organize sobriety checkpoints. 

“DUI checkpoints are the most important tool in combating DUIs from an enforcement standpoint,” Cohen said.

In many cases, the checkpoints are advertised to the public days or even weeks ahead of time. This is not to give people an escape route around the checkpoints, but to encourage people to designate a driver long before they go out, Cochran explained. 

“We think that checkpoints save more lives than patrols arrest people,” Cochran said. 

Alaska and Washington narrowly missed out on a perfect five-point rating due to a lack of high visibility law enforcement. MADD issued statements to both states imploring lawmakers and police officers to recognize the importance of checkpoints. 

Sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-related crash fatalities by about 20 percent, according to the report. 

“Law enforcement officers are our heroes who keep our roads safe and who are out there to protect all of us,” Weir said. “We advocate for sobriety checkpoints and we advocate for high visibility enforcement because these efforts are a proven deterrent for drunk driving.”

Administrative License Revocation

Forty-one states and D.C. have administrative license revocation legislation in place, allowing law enforcement to confiscate a person’s license immediately at the time of their arrest, according to the report. 

“The third star is for administrative license revocation because we know that the swift punishment of DUI offenders will deter people from committing crimes in the future,” Griffin said.

Louisiana and Tennessee both do not have administrative license revocation legislation in place, but received a point in each other category by MADD. 

Child Endangerment

Laws and statutes that protect children by placing greater penalties upon under-the-influence drivers who operate a vehicle with a child inside are in place in 46 states and D.C. 

“The fourth star is for child endangerment laws,” Griffin said. “At MADD, we believe that driving drunk with a child in the car is a form of child abuse and we believe that every child deserves a designated driver.”

Connecticut, New Mexico, South Dakota and Vermont are the only states that do not have child endangerment legislation in place to protect children from impaired drivers, according to the report. MADD pointed to New York’s child endangerment law, Leandra’s Law, as the premier example of legislation designed to protect children.

No-Refusal Events

The last point was awarded to states that have programs in place that allow law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant quickly in the event a possible DUI offender refuses to submit to a blood alcohol test. An offender’s ability to refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test presents a significant challenge to prosecutors seeking a conviction and is “one of the common drunk driving loopholes,” Griffin said. Thirty-two states had programs in place in 2013 to combat no-refusal events, according to the report. 

Pushing for a Perfect Score

MADD has reduced fatalities related to drunk driving from 21,000 people annually in 1980 to about half that today, according to the report. However, MADD advocates and government officials agree that it is not enough.

“We challenge every state, if you haven’t reached zero [deaths], you have to do more,” National Transportation and Safety Board Member Mark Rosekind said. The NTSB placed substance-impaired driving on its 2014 Most Wanted List. The list highlights the ten top priorities for the organization in the coming year, according to NTSB website. 

Eradicating drunk and substance-impaired driving will take a multi-faceted approach that, according to the NTSB, goes above five points—the organization released 19 recommendations in 2013 toward reaching the goal.  

“This is not going to change today or tomorrow to zero,” Rosekind said. “We need a sustained, high-level visible effort for all the group and all across the US to say this is not O.K., we have to bring the numbers down.”

Among the NTSB recommendations was the better use of technology such as the development of passive alcohol sensing technology, known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Both Rosekind and MADD pointed to DADSS as the future of prevention. 

Congress recently approved an additional $5 million for the project in the FY 2013 fiscal spending bill, while the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has extended the program up until 2018.

With DADSS and other programs, the end of fatalities related to drunk driving is very possible in the near future, according to MADD.

“Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable,” Cochran said. “With the right campaign and right natural partners in place we can make a huge impact on eliminating drunk driving.”

Sarah Peters is a regular contributor to The Fix. She last wrote about the viral intervention video.

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