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MADD Legal Director Wants to Change the Way Drunk Drivers are Sentenced to Focus on Prevention

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been fighting to stop drunk driving for 35 years. Sadly, although many strides have been taken in the movement, drunk driving still exists in the United States. Every year, drunk driving costs the U.S. nearly $200 billion and accounts for roughly 31% of all vehicle-related deaths. Something has to change

According to CKOM, MAAD legal director, Robert Solomon, who is also a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, reacted in late July to the recent sentencing of Catherine McKay.

McKay, 49, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for impaired driving that lead to the death of a family of four. She pleaded guilty to impaired driving that caused the death of Kamryn, Miguire, Chanda and Jordan Van de Vorst in a January 3 accident.

McKay had roughly three times legal limit of alcohol in her blood during the crash, having a BAC of 0.23 and 0.25.

Despite Solomon lobbying for longer penalties in the past, believing the sentences were too short to reflect the seriousness of impaired drivers who killed someone, he would like some public discussion get past the issue of increasing a person’s sentence for someone who has already killed someone.

While Solomon strongly believes these criminals should be punished, MAAD wants to focus more on prevention, and not just the severity of the penalty.

“The most important factor in deterrence is the perceived and actual rates of apprehension,” said Solomon. “The second most important factor is the speed with which the sanction is imposed following the behavior. Penalty is the least significant factor.”

There could soon be new legislation focusing on the prevention of these crimes, including a quicker sentencing process and better patrol, and MAAD’s history of changing laws is significant for this movement. Quartz reports that MAAD has assisted in the passing of more than 2,000 new laws and regulations to punish, prevent and patrol underage drinking and drunk driving.

Solomon added that the way the roads are patrolled be improved to change the perception of the drunk driving population. He believes too many people think they’ll get away with drunk driving so they risk it all. He thinks changing the way police officers stop potentially impaired drivers could lead to more arrests and improve the speed of the process.

“Instead of going through that rigamarole, ‘How are you? Where are you coming from?’ and the officer sticks his nose in the car to see if he can detect the odor of alcohol, they simply say: ‘blow,'” Solomon stated. He added that countries that randomly breathalyze drivers have seen drunk driving fatalities decrease by roughly 25%.

He referenced police officers in Australia, which, as eHow reports, can stop any driver they wish to perform a random breathalyzer test and attempt maximum deterrence by putting check stops in areas with the most traffic.

“Whether you’re walking, you’re biking, you’re on a bus, of in your car,” Solomon said, “You could be stopped anytime, anywhere, and [be] asked for a breath sample.”

Along with mandatory random breath testing, Solomon believes the second-most important way to combat this issue is to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers. “So we’re out of line on the two most effective impaired driving countermeasures,” he said using data from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, countries that implement a 0.05 legal BAC limit as opposed to 0.08.

Solomon and the rest of MADD are prepared to continue lobbying for new efforts to prevent these accidents. He expects distillers and brewers to oppose some of his other liquor licensing changes.

“We play this fool’s game,” Solomon said. “They make all the money, you and I pick up all the pieces. Fight after fight. Crash after crash.”

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