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Majority of Fatal Alcohol Related Car Accidents Caused by Repeat Offenders

In the early 1980s, 50 percent of highway fatalities were caused by drivers who had been drinking and driving. As of last year, just over one third of fatal car accidents were caused by drunken drivers. However, the majority of those crashes involved a group of drivers labeled as hard-core drunken drivers. Hard-core drunken drivers are defined as drivers who are pulled over with a 0.15 percent blood alcohol level, or are offenders who have been arrested for drunken driving multiple times over the last ten years.

According to the traffic safety director of AAA, hard-core drunken drivers have not responded to the legal measures and public education efforts put in place to combat drinking and driving. As a result of hard-core drunken drivers' resistance to previous efforts, the National Transportation Safety Board has created an 11 point program to reduce the practice. The designers of the program are lobbying every state to adopt their measures. So far, no single state has adopted all 11 points but some have adopted aspects of the program including jail alternatives and sobriety checkpoints. There is also a trend among prosecutors across the country to apply the stiffest penalties to hard-core drunken drivers that are involved in a fatal accident.

In California, courts have been authorized to revoke an individual's driver's license if that person is convicted of drunken driving three or more times within 10 years. Lawmakers in Texas have proposed lifting the state's ban on sobriety checkpoints. Louisiana law currently allows for police to conduct sobriety checkpoints. Legislators in Vermont have used technology to their advantage and have required convicted hard-core drunken drivers to use ignition interlocks. It is hoped that these measures along with future ones will combat the number of car accidents caused by drinking and driving.

Source: USA Today, "NTSB Pushes Zero Tolerance of Hard-Core Drunken Drivers," Larry Copeland, 12/8/10

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