Mothers Against Drunk Driving acted as a stern teacher Thursday,releasing mediocre to failing grade reports of the nation's efforts to curb drunken driving.
Rating the States,usually released by MADD and the GuideOne Foundation every three years,uses data from states and from a variety of federal sources,including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The GuideOne Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is eliminating drunken driving and underage drinking in America.
The report cards grade the nation,each of the 50 states,the District of Columbia,Puerto Rico and Guam. No states received an “A” on the report cards,and Montana was the first state to receive a failing grade this year.
Ohio received a “B-” on its report,which shows its consistency since 1999,when it received the same score the last time the report cards were distributed.
“Even though Ohio's maintained the same grade,it still has much to accomplish,” said Karen Sprattler,MADD's director of public policy and Midwest representative.
For example,alcohol's presence in Ohio traffic-related fatalities is rapidly increasing,she said. This rise is especially apparent in underage drinking.
The percent of Ohio youths involved in alcohol-related traffic deaths rose 21.9 percent between 1996 and 2001. The rate of all traffic deaths in the state rose by 32.6 percent.
Also,Ohio's total alcohol-related traffic death rate in 2001 was higher than the national one by 3 percent.
Sprattler said the main measure Ohio needs to take to curb drunken driving is passing two laws that would require the use of seat belts,and would make it illegal for a person 21 or older to drive with a blood alcohol level at or above .08.
“There are a lot of opponents to both of these,however,” she said. “Unfortunately,a lot of people think (seat belt use) is a personal choice,and beer industries are very against (the .08 BAC Illegal per se law).”
Including the District of Columbia,33 states already have passed the .08 BAC Illegal per se law,and 19 have passed the Primary Enforcement Belt Law.
But even though these laws have been passed in many states,not enough is being done across the country,said James Fell,director of Traffic Safety and Enforcement Programs with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton,Md.
As a whole,the nation received a “C” on its report card,falling from a “C+” in 1999.
MADD presented the nation with an average grade because its work to fight drunken driving has been average,said Wendy Hamilton,MADD's national president.
Indifferent government leaders,slowing law enforcement efforts and an incorrect public perception that the fight against drunken driving has been won have caused the nation to fall into complacency,she said.
And complacency has proven to yield deadly results.
During the last three years,alcohol-related traffic deaths have increased by 5 percent,Hamilton said. Last year,the number of deaths caused by alcohol-related accidents climbed to about 17,450 people,representing 41 percent of all highway deaths that year.
About 17,380 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2000.