You may agree that drunk driving is a problem in Minnesota and nearly every state in the country. In fact, about 10,000 people die in alcohol-related accidents each year, and millions of people admit to having driven under the influence of alcohol at least once. Still, those numbers are considerably lower than the statistics from the early 80s, when Mothers Against Drunk Driving first began to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.
You may already know that part of MADD’s campaign continues to be fighting for tougher laws with harsher sentences for those who drive drunk. A recent study sought to determine what changes were most effective in reducing the rates of drunk driving accidents and whether those severe laws and penalties impact the rate of accidents and fatalities. If you are facing drunk driving charges, you may be interested in the surprising results of that study.
Getting to the heart of the matter
The study looked at states with tough drunk driving laws to see if the rates of alcohol-related fatalities were any lower than those in states with more lenient laws. The analysis of the study led the researchers to conclude that increasingly harsher DWI laws are not necessarily the best deterrent for driving after drinking. Some states with tougher laws had very few fatalities, but other states had lower fatalities with relatively lenient DWI laws.
The researchers suggest that, rather than spending more tax dollars on tougher penalties, states might consider the following to reduce the rates of accidents, injuries and deaths related to drunk driving:
- Raising taxes on alcohol to discourage over consumption
- Increasing public awareness campaigns that vilify drinking and driving
- Lowering the federal blood alcohol limit to .05, as some states have already done (Utah)
- Requiring the installation of ignition interlock systems for all drivers convicted of DWI, even first offenders
- Increasing police patrols to ensure the stop and arrest of drunk drivers
- Strictly enforcing existing DWI laws and penalties
Ideally, you can avoid such penalties, as well as the potential for involvement in an accident, by refusing to get behind the wheel after drinking. DWI penalties often do little to address any underlying issues that may lead to repeat offenses. Instead, harsh penalties may create a downward spiral for those convicted. Since Minnesota is among those states with tough laws and penalties for drunk driving convictions, it is wise to know your legal rights if you should ever face arrest for suspicion of driving while impaired.