In the early 1980s, when having “one for the road” was standard and acceptable behavior, the social climate around drunk driving was much more relaxed than it is today. But during those years, over half of all car accident fatalities were attributable to drunk driving. Soon after, Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed, and in the years since, drunk driving awareness and prevention efforts have grown tremendously. In 2009, approximately 32 percent of the almost 11,000 traffic deaths were drunk driving-related. However, hard-core drunk drivers, as they are called by MADD and government agencies, were involved in over 70 percent of all drunk driving accidents in 2009, officials say. Because of this, government agencies are working to make tougher laws and consequences for this small but deadly group.
Hard-core drunk drivers are defined as those who operate vehicles with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent or higher, or repeat DUI offenders who have been arrested for drunk driving within the past 10 years. According to Jake Nelson of AAA, many of these drivers seem immune to the drunk driving prevention efforts that have been so prevalent in recent years. “Hard-core drunk drivers are, in many ways, resistant to the countermeasures we’ve applied since the early ’80s,” he said.
To reduce the occurrence of hard-core drunk driving and DWI accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board has created an 11-point program, which it is urging states to adopt. While no state has yet implemented all 11 components, many are considering or have adopted various aspects of the program.
Texas, which is among the top states in terms of drunk driving injuries and deaths, currently bans sobriety checkpoints. Next year, however, legislators say that they will introduce a state bill designed to allow such checkpoints. According to Texas Representative Todd Smith, the bill is not guaranteed to pass. He says that similar legislation has failed in previous years because of resistance from “drunks, people who make money off drunks and civil libertarians”.
Source: USA Today, “NTSB pushes zero tolerance of hard-core drunken drivers“, Larry Copeland, 8 December 2010