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Maryland falls behind in fight against drunk driving accidents

Each year, car accidents caused by drunk drivers take a terrible toll on Maryland families.

While the number car accidents caused by drunk drivers in Maryland has stayed relatively the same over the last five years, measures taken by Virginia have effectively reduced the rate of DUI accidents. At the same time, the rate of alcohol-related crashes has increased in D.C. Why has Virginia been able to reduce the rate of alcohol-related crashes while Maryland's DUI crash rate remains flat?

Law enforcement authorities are attributing Virginia's use of sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and public education campaigns.

Officers believe that checkpoints and extra patrols are crucial for fighting the battle against drunk driving accidents because it stops drunk drivers who are already on the road. Not only that, these enforcement efforts are also highly publicized and can deter drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

However, those same measures haven't proven as effective in Maryland. Part of the reason is because of difficulties in getting the attention of people via advertising campaigns and finding the money in an already cash-strapped budget for the extra enforcement.

However, officials in Virginia highlight that they pooled together agencies and resources to optimize their efforts.

After Virginia posted 11,736 alcohol- and drug-related car accidents in 2006, the number has dropped every year. In 2010, the mark reached 8,221. The trend in Maryland has been up and down, decreasing between 2006 and 2008, but spiking up to 8,804 in 2008. The state saw a slight decrease to 8,430 in 2010.

In 2004, Virginia introduced legislation involving ignition interlock devices that measure a driver's blood alcohol content. This was a mandatory measure for drivers who had been convicted of driving with a BAC of .15 or more.

Similar requirements do not exist in Maryland yet, but a similar ignition-interlock law is scheduled to go into effect in October.

Source: The Washington Examiner, "Virginia tops region in slashing impaired-driving crashes," Emily Babay, 24 July 2011

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