Looking for a Drunk Driving Solution?

No significant reductions in drunk driving deaths over the last several years has officials concerned and looking for solutions. Alcohol-related accidents showed a steady decline for much of the last two decades, starting in 1981.

This is attributed to increased awareness from media campaigns, greater enforcement efforts and penalties, and lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) thresholds across the country. Much of the credit for this headway can be given to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).

But now that progress has slowed. Indeed, a Department of Transportation (DOT) memo states "2003 was the sixth consecutive year with no discernable progress in reducing alcohol related crashes and fatalities." Government drinking and driving statistics show that there were about 600 more deaths in 2003 than 1999, when a record-low 16,572 were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

Officials and advocacy groups are in disagreement about what to do about it. MADD believes that the solution lies in increasing funding for publicity and more frequent sobriety checkpoints.

The American Beverage Institute (ABI) however, disagrees, citing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study suggesting that the reason the problem continues is because of those with alcohol-use disorders—the so-called "chronic" offenders. The Institute argues that roving police patrols are more effective.

According to the ABI, expensive public relations campaigns, lower BAC thresholds and roadblocks are no longer needed. They say that since sobriety checkpoints are publicized in the media, drunks learn the locations and find alternate routes around them.

If roving patrols work so well, what might work even better is if the police just went directly to the source. They could park outside bars and catch intoxicated drivers as they left the parking lot. Better still, the cops could stand right outside the bar and give alcohol breathalyzer tests to the customers as they leave.

Then again…maybe someone could install coin-operated breath alcohol testers right in the bars and let the patrons test themselves…

Rockford, Michigan bought some Alcohol Alert breath testers to reduce drunken driving.