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Alcohol-related fatalities decline

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One of the country’s great success stories over the last several decades has been its ability to reduce the devastation caused by drunken driving.

The number of alcohol-related fatalities has dropped by about half since 1982, even though we are driving far more miles now.  That positive trend is even better for our younger drivers.

Kentucky, I am proud to say, is helping to lead the way.  One study said we had the 15th best rate – trailing only Texas in the South – when measuring the reduction of alcohol-related traffic fatalities between 1996 and 2006.  Alcohol is now involved in about 20 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the state, but that’s much lower than it has been historically.

There are several reasons why we are seeing these numbers continue to decline.  Education and enforcement are key, as are several laws put on the books over the last dozen years.  The legal blood-alcohol limit was lowered more than a decade ago, for example, and last year the General Assembly toughened the standard for illegal, mind-altering substances so that even a trace amount can lead to a DUI conviction.

This past year, the Kentucky House tried to build on that when it adopted legislation that would have increased the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of DUI; this would keep their vehicles from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.

The need is certainly there.  According to testimony given in support of the bill, there are nearly 8,000 people in Kentucky alone who have three or more DUI convictions on their record.  Hopefully next year we will see this bill become law.

In addition to law enforcement’s efforts on the highway, the state’s Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control is seeing success in several areas as well.  Its Server Training Alcoholic Regulations program, for example, has provided a four-hour course to more than 26,000 people over the last decade.  As a result, the number of cases where alcohol was illegally sold to minors dropped from 26 percent in 2001 to seven percent last year.

Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. He may be reached by writing to Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601, or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 – TTY (800) 896-0305.