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Guest Author – Jan 2020

All Drunk Drivers are High Risk

This year Mothers Against Drunk Driving is celebrating our 40th anniversary. MADD’s impact since our founding in 1980 is undeniable. MADD started a cultural revolution that made drunk driving unacceptable. MADD was THE grass roots organization who lead the way reducing drunk driving deaths in half from approximately 22,000 deaths in 1980 to 10,511 fatalities in 2018. MADD achieved this result thanks to our ardent network of victims, volunteers, traffic safety partners, and law enforcement officers like you. But our work is far from over. MADD will not be satisfied until we have a nation of No More Victims.

You are MADD’s Heroes, a title we give to the most dedicated enforcers of traffic impairment laws. Drunk driving is no accident. It is a choice. Anyone who is impaired, regardless of the reading on the breathalyzer, is a high-risk threat to every officer on patrol and every driver, every pedestrian, every life, they encounter. We know that every time you leave your home, every time you perform a traffic stop, your life is at risk. MADD supports you. MADD is here for you. MADD will fight for you and work to get the resources you need to do your jobs.

Unfortunately, we still fight misperceptions perpetuated by the alcohol industry that threaten the progress we have made toward ending this crime. Most recently, the alcohol industry funded a report released in December 2019 that calls for an emphasis on rehabilitating drunk drivers who are convicted with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 and above. The report labeled those drivers as “high risk.” Specifically, the report recommended “moving away from a conviction-centered approach” for the worst of offenders, which it called “cookie-cutter justice”, and instead dedicate resources to treatment and aftercare.

I don’t have to explain to patrol officers who work the streets and highways every day that ALL drunk drivers are high risk drunk drivers. MADD’s former National President, Jan Withers, lost her daughter, Alisa Joy, to a drunk driver with a BAC of .08.

Classifying drunk drivers as “high-risk” or “hard core” is a tired debate that was settled nearly 15 years ago. In 2006, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report, which said “… the hard-core group isn’t the whole DWI problem or even the biggest part, so it doesn’t make sense to focus too narrowly on this group. The result is to overlook a lot of other impaired drivers who escape the definition of hard core.” The December 2019 report even acknowledges that its rebranded thesis was originally argued by the alcohol industry two decades ago. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

America does not require definitions. We need solutions. Drunk driving is the Number 1 killer on America’s roads. We must remove the impaired driver from the road. Patrols save lives. Traffic stops save lives. DUI arrests save lives. If District Attorneys and Courts recognize drunk driving as a violent crime, then there would be no discussion about “high-risk” offenders. Arresting impaired drivers is not “cookie-cutter justice”, but rather a moral and just cause, saving innocent lives by enforcing the law to its fullest extent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average drunk driver has driven drunk at least 80 times before they are caught. You know this, because you’ve seen it. Drunk driving killed 10,511 people in 2018, which is 29% of all traffic fatalities. Drunk driving is THE leading cause of traffic fatalities. Furthermore, a shocking number of law enforcement officers are killed by drunk drivers while performing routine traffic stops. Ask the nearly 1 million victims of drunk driving and they will tell you, a driver with .08 BAC is just as dangerous as a driver with a .15 BAC. Impairment is impairment and impairment kills.

MADD’s mission is to eliminate the 100% preventable, violent crime of drunk and drugged driving. Senseless debates over “high-risk” drunk drivers were resolved 20 years ago when America adopted .08 as its national standard.

MADD is committed to creating a nation of NO MORE VICTIMS, but we cannot do it alone. MADD, its victims, volunteers, and constituents need you. MADD can pass great laws, but without you, it is all wasted effort. Patrols prevent crimes. Patrols matter. DUI arrests matter. MADD needs you to stay vigilant and to keep the pressure on ALL drunk drivers through high-visibility enforcement and DUI checkpoints. MADD is back and MADD has your back. Now and always. Thank you for keeping our communities safe and stay safe out there

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