Every day, 28 people in the United States die in an alcohol-related vehicle crash—that's one person every 51 minutes.

And according to Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD), Montana has done little to reduce drunk driving, starting on the first offense, since the enactment of a .08 BAC per se law in 2003.

MADD uses a five-star ranking system to rate the state’s efforts to encourage the adoption of proven countermeasures that save lives and prevent impaired driving:

• All offender interlock law

• Sobriety checkpoints

• Administrative license revocation

• Child endangerment

• No refusal

The most recent ranking by MADD gave Montana 0.5 star and a national ranking of 42nd.

MADD continues to challenge the Montana Legislature to take action and provide law enforcement with the tools needed to get drunk drivers off the road. Laws are needed in Montana to require ignition interlocks for all offenders and to use high-visibility enforcement and no-refusal crackdown activities

Since May 2009, judges have had the option to order interlocks for first-time offenders and must order these devices for all repeat offenders.

Another life-saving action by legislators would be to improve the enforcement of impaired driving with sobriety check points. Sobriety checkpoints are a valuable tool for law enforcement to deter drunk and drugged driving. 37 states plus Washington, D.C. utilize this lifesaving enforcement tool to save lives.

In a comprehensive study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that when well-publicized sobriety checkpoints were run, alcohol-related crashes and fatalities decreased by more than 20 percent.

Another challenge for our legislators will be to broaden their understanding of drugged driving because of the use of marijuana and prescription drugs that are increasingly prominent among drivers on Montana’s roads.

Rick Gale

Community Coalition On Drug Awareness