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Majority of Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents Caused by First-Time Offenders

We hear a lot from lawmakers that repeat drunk drivers are some of the most dangerous on the roads. This argument is used as fodder for increased DUI penalties. But Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently announced in a press release that it’s first-time offenders who cause the majority of deadly drunk driving crashes.

Though the MADD statement was particularly targeted at Wisconsin, where they recently gave the state one of the lowest grades in its annual report card of states, the agency says the same could likely be said for all states—that first-time drunk driving offenders may prove to be the most dangerous.

How New York and New Jersey Measured Up

The annual report from MADD assigns a grade to each state based on what they are doing to reduce drunk driving accidents and fatalities.

New Jersey received only two out of five points for their drunk driving laws. MADD says that New Jersey should expand the requirements for ignition interlock devices to all convicted drunk drivers and revoke the driver’s license of those arrested for drunk driving and those that refuse a breathalyzer test. These tools, the report says, should be expanded in an effort to keep the roads safer.

New York’s drunk driving programs and laws earned it four out of five points. The latest legislative addition, Leandra’s Law, is said to be one of the most comprehensive of its type in protecting people from drunk drivers. The law includes enhanced penalties for people convicted of drunk driving with a child passenger. MADD holds this law up as a model for other states, though they still advocate for the passage of no-refusal legislation there.

MADD Annual Report Grades States on Drunk Driving Enforcement

The report cards rank states on five different enforcement and prevention approaches and give a point for each. Those include:

  • Ignition interlock: These devices require a driver to take a breath test before starting their car. MADD advocates for ignition interlock devices on all drunk driving convictions, including first-time offenses. So far, 20 states have enacted such laws.
  • Sobriety checkpoints: Checkpoints are when law enforcement set up road blocks to look for drunk drivers. MADD says these are useful and effective in deterring drunk drivers and reducing crashes.
  • Administrative license revocation (ALR): ALR laws allow for the immediate revocation of a drunk driving arrestee’s license by the arresting officer. Rather than having to wait for a court date, these laws are proactive in removing someone’s driving privileges.
  • Child endangerment: Driving drunk with a child in the car should carry additional penalties, as it constitutes child abuse. Though 46 states have such laws, they vary widely in severity.
  • No-refusal events: No refusal events say that those pulled over for drunk driving cannot refuse a breath test, and if they do refuse, the police can seek a warrant for a blood draw.

But is it enough?

A first time drunk driving offender, or one who is convicted of driving drunk, has driven drunk an average of 80 times before they are caught, according to MADD.

So, while campaigns to stiffen penalties for drunk driving offenders may aid in reducing the likelihood that someone will drive drunk after they’ve been convicted, perhaps we aren’t doing enough to prevent drunk driving in the first place.

Do laws like ignition interlock and no refusal do anything to prevent drunk driving or are they merely there to punish those who are caught?

If a drunk driver is arrested and punished severely, there’s a good chance they won’t drive drunk again. That’s one less accident waiting to happen. People who have been harmed by drunk drivers can seek compensation. It’s a good idea to talk to a personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options.