As we approach the holiday season, there will be more parties, celebrations, and other events involving people. There will also be an increase in driving and unfortunately the consumption of alcoholic beverages. None of us have to be reminded that drunk drivers are a most serious problem in our country. While progress has been made, there is much work left to be done.

Many people, who go to parties and events and have a few drinks, don’t always understand the significance of it. Going into the holiday season, we must all become more aware of the consequences of driving after drinking at social events.

Alabama’s efforts to curb drunk driving have worsened over the past three years, according to a report released recently by Mothers Against Drunk Driving that showed Alabama’s grade feel from a B+ in 1999 to a C this year. MADD also graded nationwide efforts against drunk driving as a C. The best grade was a B+ for California, while Montana was the only state to receive an F.

Peggy Batey, the executive director of MADD in Alabama, said the main concern in the report was that the percentage of traffic fatalities caused by drunk driving continues to rise in Alabama. In 2001, 38 percent of the state’s 994 traffic fatalities were alcohol related, according to the MADD report.

The State of Alabama needs to improve its database to make it easier to determine which accidents are alcohol related. Batey said the state also needs better laws related to “house parties,” where an adult allows kids to drink in their home. …enough or enforced enough to send a message to those who provide alcohol. Hopefully, the MADD report will make people more aware of the consequences of getting behind the wheel drunk. Countless lives are ended too soon because of alcohol related accidents.

Many people who drink and drive and cause accidents don’t understand they destroy a family when a life is lost. Stiffer penalties are needed for drunk drivers. MADD believes judges should have little leeway to reduce sentences or fines. I also believe this is necessary in order to send the proper message to people who continue to drink and drive.

Discussions are now underway between legislators and children advocacy groups that may come up with legislation to reduce the number of children killed in alcohol related traffic accidents. Many believe the bill passed this year in Alabama to restrict the driving privileges of 16-year-old will help. The Alabama Department of Public Safety is emphasizing continued training for troopers to better recognize impaired drivers to remove them from roadways.

MADD has some two million members and has worked tirelessly to make our highways safer. The group will make a major push both in Congress and in state legislatures this year. Last year, 17,448 traffic deaths were related to alcohol. This was a shocking 41 percent of all traffic fatalities.

I share MADD’s position that all drunk driving is 100% preventable. We all have an obligation to help stamp out this evil in our society.

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