Some Horrifying Drunk Driving Statistics
In the broadest sense, the tough new drunk driving laws that go into effect in Rhode Island represent the labors of concerned citizens throughout the United States. The Rhode Island driving drunk statistics are not the first of their kind, since similar approaches - involving mandatory license revocations and stiff penalties combined with alcoholism rehabilitation programs - are now found in several other states.
The significance of the laws is what they represent: public recognition that there can be no compromise on the clear necessity of ending drunken driving on the nation's highways. And that the time for legislative action is now.
Indeed, what until recent years had been a problem dealt with mainly by a few specialists working here and there - highway safety officials, youth workers, temperance reformers, some crusading attorneys and business leaders - has now become a national movement that is encompassing dozens of organizations, thousands of individuals, and is sweeping right into state legislative chambers as well as the White House itself.
There is still much to be done to reduce driving drunk statistics. But there are already many evidences of public action. One of the questions troubling safety experts a decade ago was this one: ''Can a concerned public, seeking solutions to the drinking and driving problem, bring about constructive changes in the face of apathetic legislatures, the political clout of the liquor and brewery industries, and the prevalence of drinking within American society?'' Can it indeed! Just consider the reforms now taking place:
During the past five years some 19 states have raised their legal drinking ages to prevent teenage drinking and driving. That means that of the 28 states that had lowered legal drinking ages to 18, 19, or 20, over two-thirds have now reversed their laws. Public pressures must now be brought to boost the drinking ages in those states still allowing teenage drinking.
Efforts to stiffen state laws - particularly by imposing mandatory license revocations and some jail sentencing - are now underway in a number of states, in large part because of the success of citizen groups in California who won a tough law earlier this year. The new Rhode Island law is just the latest example. In Massachusetts, a legislative battle has developed over a proposed comprehensive new law.
Grass-roots citizens and youth groups are being formed to push legislation, monitor judges, combat youth drinking, and picket roadhouses and bars that tolerate problem drinking. In Massachusetts, for example, students at the Wayland High School formed a group called Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) that has now spread to other states.