Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reducing Drunken Driving Deaths: Still Miles to Go

States that target drunken driving for tough law enforcement have seen significant decreases in fatal, alcohol-related crashes. Federal data released earlier this month showed fatality rates down in 40 states and the District of Columbia. According to the Department of Transportation, the number of people killed by drunken driving declined from 13,041 in 2007 to 11,773 in 2008.

This was a 7 percent decrease in one year, and a 44 percent drop since 21,1113 people were killed in 1982. The figures have been trending downward since then, in no small part because Mothers Against Drunk Driving did so much to focus public attention − and exert political pressure − on the issue.

But nearly 12,000 deaths is still far too many. As Doug Berman has pointed out, society's response to drunken driving remains flawed on many levels. He argues, for example, that greater use should be made of ignition-interlock devices, which would require drivers to blow into a tube that checks blood alcohol content before starting the vehicle.

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