Criminal and traffic laws are largely laid out on a state level. There are federal criminal laws regarding drugs, fraud and other activities, but when it comes to combating a problem such as drunk driving, each state is free to take its own approach. Some measures, such as establishing a legal drinking age and sobriety limit are left to the states, but are heavily influenced by federal budget maneuvers. Regardless, there is value in taking a local or statewide look at the problem to see what can be done.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently released a report offering a rating for each state and the District of Columbia regarding how they are doing in their efforts to reduce drunk driving fatalities. California was given a four star rating. The report issued by MADD cited four California counties for having taken the initiative in requiring ignition interlock devices for any driver convicted of drinking and driving. Those counties, Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare represent around 13 million Californians. The MADD report said that a five-star rating wouldn’t be achievable unless California passed a statewide law to mandate what those four counties have done.
Ignition interlock devices were just one countermeasure recommended by MADD. The group also advocates for the use of sobriety checkpoints, license revocation at the time of arrest, child endangerment laws to punish drunk drivers who drive with children in the vehicle and laws that speed the process of obtaining a warrant to test people who refuse blood alcohol testing. The five stars available in the rating system are dependent on passing laws regarding each of the recommended countermeasures.
The goal of reducing drunk driving deaths to zero is an important one. More than 10,000 people a year die in traffic accidents involving drivers who have had too much to drink. Alcohol is a major factor in motor vehicle fatalities and needs to be addressed in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner.
Source: USA Today, “How is your state doing? MADD rates USA on drunk driving prevention,” by Lori Grisham, 15 January 2015