Speaking Out Against Drunk Driving

drunk driving

Advocates against drunk driving are becoming common as a result of the grief and suffering experienced by the immediate family members of the victims. It would seem that speaking about the tragedy has become a form of solace to these parents. They found encouragement from knowing their campaigns and efforts against drunk driving will save lives.

One of these groups is Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD.com). Their webpage describes their mission as “to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.

MADD in Utah listed three choices that can prevent drunk driving:

  1. Don’t Drink Underage: Drinking alcohol impairs a teen’s developing brain, harming good judgment and making it more likely she will become alcohol dependent and drive drunk as an adult.
  2. Don’t drink and drive: If you drink, always plan a safe ride home with a non-drinker.
  3. Don’t ride with a drunk driver: Encourage him to find a safe ride home.

You might be asking, “How severe is DUI in Utah?” Let these statistics from Tenth Annual DUI Report speaks for themselves.

DUI-Related Fatalities Increased in CY 2011

From CY 2010 to CY 2011, DUI/alcohol-related fatalities in Utah increased from 25 to 39, and UI/drug-related fatalities increased from 26 to 30.

Law Enforcement: Arrests

  1. There were 13,031 DUI arrests in FY 2012, 785 fewer than in the previous year. This represents a decrease of almost six percent and a decrease of nearly 15 percent since FY 2010.
  2. The majority of the arrests, almost 84 percent, were for per se violations that included driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.
  3. Not a Drop violations by persons under the legal drinking age of 21 decreased almost 16 percent, with a decrease of nearly 29 percent since FY 2010.
  4. Arrests included 972 made during specialized DUI overtime enforcement events such as enforcement blitzes, saturation patrols, and DUI checkpoints that involved 100 law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
  5. Half of all DUI arrests were made by municipal law enforcement agencies.
  6. 72 percent of DUI drivers were male and the proportion of female DUI drivers continued to increase.
  7. Eight percent of arrestees were under the legal drinking age of 21.
  8. The average BAC was .14; the highest was .39, nearly five times the legal limit.
  9. The majority of DUI arrests occurred along the Wasatch Front with Weber,
  10. Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties accounted for 72 percent of the total.
  11. 68 percent of arrests were for a first DUI offense, 21 percent were for a second offense, seven percent were for a third offense, and almost four percent were for a fourth or subsequent offense.
  12. From CY 2010 to CY 2011, the percentage of total crash fatalities that were DUI/alcohol-related increased from 9.9 percent to 16.0 percent.
  13. From CY 2010 to CY 2011, the percentage of total crash fatalities that were DUI/drug-related increased from 10.3 percent to 12.3 percent.

Courts: Adjudications and Sanctions

  1. In FY 2012, there were 9,599 DUI cases in Utah’s Justice Courts. Among the cases resolved, 59 percent resulted in a guilty plea or verdict.
  2. Justice Court judges ordered offenders to participate in an educational series in 3,066 cases, ordered offenders into substance use disorder treatment in 2,409 cases, and ordered ignition interlock devices in 831 cases.
  3. There were 2,102 DUI cases disposed by the state’s District Courts. Among the cases resolved, 75 percent resulted in a guilty plea or verdict.
  4. District Court judges ordered offenders to participate in an educational series in 303 cases, ordered offenders into substance use disorder treatment in 613 cases, and ordered ignition interlock devices in 246 cases.

Sometimes tragedy must be experienced first before policies and laws are enacted to prevent it from happening again in the future. Authorities hope that be imposing fines and penalties for violation of the law, potential offenders will be dissuaded to commit infractions. However, history has pointed again and again that accidents as a result of drunk driving continue to happen despite the laws in place.

One prime example given to drive this point is the fatal deaths of Daniel and Richard Boyle last July 4, 1985. The two boys were boating and watching fireworks in Long Island Sound. They were killed when another boat, driven by a young man who had been drinking and was speeding, crashed into them. Since there was no law on impaired boat driving, the offender was imprisoned for six months only.

The Boyles’ deaths resulted in the passing of a law that prohibits driving a boat while intoxicated.

The boys’ mother spent several years getting over the fateful accident. According to accounts, she spent many summer holidays – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day – talking about the dangers of drinking and driving, and boating while intoxicated. She reminds people that driving a boat after drinking can and does take innocent lives.

Another example of a DUI fatality is Blake Strebel. Blake Strebel’s parents have also become advocates of the prevention of drunk driving. Blake was just 19 years old and was about to finish his Bachelor’s degree from Weber State University when he and his friend, 18-year-old Derek Jasper, were killed on April 22, 2009, by a drunk driver who was running from police.

Tim Strebel, Blake’s father, was quoted as saying that “knowing somebody was impaired means that it could have been prevented.” Then the death of his son could have been prevented.

According to the report, Mark A. Mora was 17-years-old when he killed Strebel and Jasper. Weber County prosecutors charged him as an adult and he pleaded guilty to automobile homicide and failure to stop for police, both second-degree felonies. A judge sentenced him to serve two consecutive terms of up to 15 years in prison.

The Strebels claimed they are not against people having a drink but they want people to exercise good judgment so that another family won’t have to experience the anguish and loss they have. They insisted that people have choice and this tragedy resulting from drunk driving can end.

Numerous campaigns have been advocated to reduce drunk driving incidents. MADD reported success of the campaigns in the following:

1. House and Senate Appropriations Committees reported out a bill that includes vital funding for the nation’s top drunk driving prevention programs in 2014. The bill includes $29 million for high visibility law enforcement efforts and ensures that two drunk driving crackdowns will occur, as well as one mobilization on seat belt use. These successful campaigns are crucial to enforcing drunk driving laws and encouraging the public to buckle up.

2. They also fully funded research for the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS. This funding, over $5 million for the year, will continue the research and development of advanced vehicle technology, which holds the promise of one day saving more than 7,000 lives a year by making sure that cars can’t be driven by drunk drivers. Two technologies are being studied, one is a touch-based system that can read your blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
through your fingertips and the other is an air-sampling system that can test and isolate just the air exhaled by the driver. Both of these systems are well on their way to being tested in real vehicles. By having either one of these technologies in every car, there would be a greater confidence that the driver in every car is not legally drunk.

3. The committees also approved $20 million to encourage states to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws. Currently, 18 states require all drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock in order to regain driving privileges following a DUI conviction. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that these laws are effective in reducing drunk driving deaths, reducing future drunk driving offenses by two-thirds on average.

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a cell phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A convicted drunk driver must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start. It is a simple and economical way to make sure that offenders can drive to and from work, but that they can’t drive drunk.

Utah is one of those states that supports the Ignition Interlock Laws as of July 2009 for first time DUI offenders.

Indeed, with every possible measure in place to eliminate drunk driving, every mother can have an assurance that her children are at least protected from drunk driving. Hopefully no mother will be driven to speak about the risks of drunk driving. No mother should be in pain because of the preventable loss of someone she deeply loves.

May these initiatives help keep Utahns safe on the road. Accidents do sometimes bring out the best in people. They serve as painful reminder that a wrong choice can result in grief and losses. In the part of the offender, the accident can lead to imprisonment and penalties. For those who have lost a loved one to drunk driving, they can find their voice, and speak out about the dangers of  drunk driving.

Photo copy right of the United States Armed Forces

 

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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