Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave Georgia good grades in its annual report card on states and their efforts to eliminate drunk-driving crashes. But more work remains on ignition interlock devices.
MADD’s annual Report to the Nation awarded Georgia four out of five stars in its effort to reduce drunk driving fatalities through enforcement, legislation and technology. In Georgia and across the country, MADD members and officials campaign for better laws, stricter enforcement and the use of high-tech tools to reduce drunk driving.
They credit their work for creating tighter drunk driving laws and prevention efforts. In 2006, for instance, only one state required ignition interlock devices for first-time drunk drivers. By 2013, 20 states were using the devices for first-time offenders.
Where Georgia stands
Twenty-five percent of all Georgia traffic fatalities in 2012 were related to a drunk driver. That’s 301 total deaths and marks an 11 percent increase over 2011 statistics.
The MADD report grades states on five issues, giving them a star for each one they meet. They include:
- Sobriety checkpoints
- Interlock devices for all first-time convicted drunk drivers
- Child endangerment laws
- No refusal laws
- Administrative license revocation
Georgia was awarded four out of five stars, missing only the ignition interlock requirement for all DUI convictions.
The Peach State uses sobriety checkpoints, particularly on weekends and holidays, to identify drunk drivers before they cause accidents. Stopping traffic on Georgia roads may inconvenience drivers, but it’s preferable to the traffic back-ups caused by fatal accidents.
Also, the state has laws that increase drunk driving penalties when a child is present. If someone drives drunk with a child in the car, they must be held accountable for putting a young life at risk.
Administrative license revocation allows law enforcement to take a suspected drunk driver’s license away even before he or she is convicted. This ensures they won’t be back on our roads while waiting for their court date.
Finally, no refusal laws make administering an alcohol detection test much easier — potentially penalizing those who refuse to take the tests and making it easier for police officers to get a warrant when a blood draw is necessary.
The nation has come a long way in reducing the number of drunk driving accidents on our roads. Still, in 2012, there were 5,700 alcohol-related crash injuries and 9,041 alcohol-related accidents, and Georgia could help reduce that with tough ignition interlock rules.
Ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI convictions
Ignition interlock devices require drivers to pass a breath test before allowing them to start their vehicle. This can prevent drunk driving by people who have shown a propensity to get behind the wheel after drinking.
Ignition interlock devices are not used in all Georgia DUI convictions. Thus, MADD is making it a campaign issue in our state and one that we should all get behind.
Ignition interlocks not only serve as punishment but could deter would-be drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. Drunk driving is a killer. Those who choose to drive while intoxicated are handling a deadly weapon recklessly. They put us all at risk.