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MADD gives Montana poor ranking for DUI punishment



MT receives 1 of 5 stars for countermeasures

Big Sky Weekly Wire Services

In connection with the fifth anniversary of its campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has unveiled a report that rates the nation and each state on progress implementing drunk driving countermeasures. On a five-star scale, the nation received an average rating of three stars, while Montana earned a one-star rating.

“This provides an important indicator of where the state stands in its efforts to eliminate drunk driving,” said MADD Montana volunteer Becky Sturdevant.

Montana law establishes enhanced penalties for those who drive drunk with children in the car. Additional stars would come from requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, conducting sobriety checkpoints, participating in “no-refusal” activities for those suspected of drunk driving, and taking away licenses of drunk driving offenders.

Launched in 2006, the campaign provides three steps to eliminating drunk driving by supporting police patrol roads, lobbying for an ignition interlocking to require convicted DUI drivers to blow zero before the car starts.

Ignition interlocks, on average, reduce DUI repeates by 67 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current interlock law in Montana is mandatory for repeat offenders. Similar laws in New Mexico and Arizona helped reduce DUI fatalities in those states by 36 and 46 percent, respectively. 15 other states require ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers.

“The idea is not to catch people, it’s to publicize that people need to be aware about not driving impaired. It’s to say look, ‘We’re really watching this weekend, so don’t do it,” Sturdevant added. “Ideally, we’d have no DUI arrests because nobody would drive under the influence.”

MADD also announced updated figures showing drunk driving costs the U.S. more than $132 billion annually. These costs include monetary and quality of life costs to victims of drunk driving, along with costs to both the government and employers.

“It is only appropriate that we shine a light on Montana’s drunk driving problem during the time of year when drunk driving crashes are most prevalent,” Haubenreiser said. “MADD urges residents to be extra vigilant about planning ahead for a safe way home when holiday festivities include alcohol.”

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