By: Lori Grisham
Original Source: www.usatoday.com
Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a report Thursday rating all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to stop drunk driving fatalities. The report is the latest release from the group’s Campaign To Eliminate Drunk Driving, a project that began in 2006 and involves working with legislators and law enforcement to create stronger laws.
“The report is such a great thumbnail of where we are in the country,” Colleen Sheehey-Church, president of MADD, told USA TODAY Network.
MADD created a five-star system for the report that looks at five different areas of countermeasures that can be taken to prevent drunk driving fatalities. While laws varied, states received a star for each criteria that they fulfill. Those categories are:
Ignition interlock laws: Ignition interlocks are devices that measure drivers blood alcohol level and are installed in cars of offenders. Drivers have to blow a clear test before they are able to start up their cars. MADD supports first-time offender laws that require an interlock for six months and longer for repeat offenders.
Sobriety checkpoints: MADD says random checkpoints that screen drivers for intoxication are the “primary way to protect the public.” Checkpoints are legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia. MADD considers these measures and ignition interlock laws the most effective to prevent fatalities, Sheehey-Church said.
License revocation: Laws that allow the arresting officer to immediately confiscate an offender’s driver’s license.
Child endangerment laws: 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or statues that consider driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle as a form of child abuse. These laws vary, with New York’s considered the model by MADD.
No-refusal events: A program that allows law enforcement officials to obtain an expedited warrant to test an offender who has refused to take a blood alcohol test. MADD gave a star to states that have prosecutors and judges available to streamline the process.
“We’re actually doing pretty good,” Sheehey-Church said of the progress since 2006. “In 2014, we passed four very strong laws for ignition interlock in Alabama, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Delaware.”
“Our priorities are passing ignition interlock laws for every offender in every state and we will continue to work to make sure that strong laws, like interlocks and the other DUI countermeasures in our report, are passed across the country,” she said.
There are 13 states on the list with a 5-star rating. Kansas is one of them.
“Impaired driving is everybody’s problem,” Chris Bortz, the traffic safety manager at the Kansas Department of Transportation, said. “I like that other states are putting it high on their list too to stop death and injury on our roadways.”
Virginia also received MADD’s highest rating.
“We’re very pleased with the recognition. However, any death from a drunk driver is unacceptable and avoidable so we’ll continue to be vigilant in our efforts,” Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said.
There is no state that’s doing it perfectly, according to Sheehey-Church.
“There is always room for improvement,” she said.
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