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MADD Honors Victims on 15th Anniversary of Nation's Worst
DUI Crash, Unveils Federal Plan

Commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Kentucky Bus Crash, the worst drunk driving crash in U.S. history, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and members of Congress recently honored victims and survivors with a national moment of silence and announced details of MADD's federal proposal to reduce drunk driving deaths and injuries.

The call to action coincides with the release of new government
statistics showing an increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths for the third year in a row and Congress' reauthorization of the multi-year, multi-billion dollar Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) for which MADD urged inclusion of a package of highway safety provisions to re-ignite the war on drunk driving.

The MADD proposal would establish a first-time National Traffic Safety Fund for ongoing enforcement crackdowns, such as sobriety checkpoints, to curb drunk driving and boost seat belt use. It also calls for stricter accountability controls to ensure that federal funds are used more effectively and strategically at the state and national level with increased leadership from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

MADD also wants the reauthorization of TEA-21 to prod states to enact get-tough laws targeting "higher-risk" drivers as a condition of receiving their full share of federal highway funds and to encourage passage of state primary seat belt enforcement laws. MADD defines a "higher-risk driver" as a repeat drunk driving offender, a driver with a high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater, or someone driving on a suspended
license where the suspension is the result of a prior DUI conviction.

The 1988 Kentucky Bus crash in which 24 youth and 3 adults were killed and 30 others were injured on their way home from a church outing was caused by a repeat drunk driving offender with a .24 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), heading the wrong way down the highway in a pickup truck.

Last year nearly 18,000 people were killed and 500,000 others were injured in crashes involving alcohol, representing 49 deaths and 1,370 injuries every day. About one-third of drivers arrested or convicted of DUI are repeat offenders.

"Drunk drivers are slipping through cracks in the system because of public and political complacency," said Wendy J. Hamilton, MADD national president. "The result is a growing number of broken bodies, broken families and broken hearts left in the wake of drunks behind the wheel."

Hamilton's sister Becky and nephew Timmy were killed in a crash resulting from a drunk driver with a .16 percent BAC - twice the illegal limit in the majority of states and the District of Columbia.

Hamilton said that "the rising tide in alcohol-related deaths is fueled by meager resources given to enforcement, a lack of a coordinated and strategic game plan and a lax system that often treats drunk drivers as victims while repeat offenders and high BAC drivers routinely get a mere slap on the wrist."

MADD's plan specifically calls for:

* Establishment of a National Traffic Safety Fund to support state and national traffic safety programs, enforcement, and data improvements
* Increased Accountability for Expenditure of Federal Funds
* Expanded Impaired Driving and Seat Belt Law Enforcement Mobilizations
* Enactment of a National Standard to Reduce Repeat DUI/DWI and Other Higher-Risk Driver Recidivism
* Enactment of a National Primary Seat Belt Enforcement Standard
* Enactment of a National Standard Banning Open Containers of alcoholic beverages in vehicles

Traffic crashes cost Americans $230 billion each year, but federal spending on highway safety was only $522 million in 2001 with just 26 percent going to fight drunk driving.

"Compared to the financial and human costs of drunk driving, our nation is spending a mere pittance on the problem. The reauthorization of TEA-21 will set the direction of transportation policy for the rest of the decade, and this is our best opportunity to ensure fairness and balance in highway safety spending," said Hamilton.

MADD's call to action was echoed by the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Ellen Engleman, U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Michael DeWine (R-OH), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) who joined Hamilton at a recent Capitol Hill news conference.

NTSB also joined MADD in calling for stricter standards for higher-risk drivers.

"The tragedy that occurred 15 years ago in Carrollton, Kentucky,
remains the worst impaired driving crash ever investigated by the Safety Board," said Ellen Engleman, NTSB chairman. "Since that crash, we have made school buses safer, now we need to make our highways safer by getting drivers, like the Carrollton, KY driver, who drive with a high blood alcohol concentration, or who repeatedly abuse alcohol and then drive, off the road."

Added MADD Past National President Karolyn V. Nunnallee, whose daughter Patty was the youngest killed in the bus crash, "If it happened to my family, it can happen to any family...and these tragedies do occur every thirty minutes across the country. Any politician can say that safety is their number one priority. But deeds, not words, will show us who the real leaders are."

MADD is the premiere organization working to fight drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. MADD is a 501(c) 3 charity with 600 chapters and 2 million members nationwide. Nearly 270,000 lives have been saved since MADD's founding in 1980. Find a full version of MADD's plan at ttp://www.madd.org/docs/MADD_TEA21paper.pdf

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