The Senate recently included a provision in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (or MAP-21), which is the Senate version of the surface transportation reauthorization bill, that would authorize $12 million a year, over two years, for DADSS. The provision is based on bipartisan legislation in both the House and the Senate called the ROADS SAFE Act. ROADS SAFE is intended to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities on America's roads through the development of new technologies to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while drunk. Sens. Tom Udall and Bob Corker, and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, Heath Shuler and John Sarbanes are the lead sponsors of this legislation. The House and Senate Commerce Committees unanimously approved this provision as part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act during the last Congress. Additionally, 23 diverse groups, including stakeholders from the beer, wine and spirits industry, signed a letter in support of the ROADS SAFE Act.
To be clear, MADD is not against alcohol consumption by those over 21. We are, however, 100 percent against drunk driving.
DADSS is not an ignition interlock. Interlocks are intended for convicted drunk drivers, and require the driver to blow into a device before their car will start. Interlocks are currently available, and states that require these devices for convicted drunk drivers have achieved incredible declines in drunk driving fatalities. For example, Oregon and Arizona have used interlocks to reduce DUI fatalities by more than 50 percent. Since MADD began its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving just over five years ago, 15 additional states have passed lifesaving, all-offender interlock legislation, and now all 50 states utilize this technology in one form or another. Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report proving that these laws save lives and recommending that they be adopted by every state. MADD urges all 50 states to enact legislation requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.
Advancements in vehicle technology are happening every day. Cars can now park themselves and sophisticated lane departure systems alert the driver when veering out of their lane. DADSS, while still in the research phase, holds the promise of becoming the ultimate crash avoidance system, by stopping a legally drunk driver from operating their vehicle. The goal of DADSS is to create an inexpensive, unobtrusive, reliable technology to automatically detect a drunk driver with a BAC of .08 or above, without hassling a sober driver.
Ignition interlocks now, supplemented by DADSS in the future, can take drunk driving from the front pages to the history books. While Congress disagrees on much, everyone can agree that eliminating drunk driving is a worthy goal, both in terms of human lives and cost savings. The potential return on investing $12 million per year to solve a $132 billion per year problem is a no brainer. MAP-21 sets the stage for the elimination of drunk driving. My goal -- both personally and as MADD’s National President -- is for there to be a day when there are no more victims of drunk driving.
Withers is the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).