GUEST EDITORIAL: Progress is needed

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

All of us are sharing the road with drunk drivers, most of whom are repeatedly driving impaired.

A national campaign is needed to get these drunk drivers off the road, says the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Here are facts reported in The Wall Street Journal:

‒ Nearly 1 in 3 traffic fatalities involved a drunk driver last year.

‒ That means 10,511 Americans died.

Drugs are a growing issue. Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of dead drivers with drugs in their system rose from 28 percent to 44 percent.

While there is some support for lowering the limit of blood alcohol, many drivers will drive impaired anyway.

Two-thirds of drivers in fatal crashes had about double the common blood alcohol limit of .08 percent.

In its annual report, MADD noted that there are 2 million drunk drivers on the road daily with three or more convictions.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has had great success in pushing for tough, realistic reforms. In 1980, when MADD was founded, there were about 25,000 alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. That has been cut by more than half.

Nevertheless, progress has reached a standstill. Alcohol-related traffic deaths have basically remained the same for the last decade.

Since many of these people won’t stop driving drunk, MADD supports the use of ignition interlock devices after the first DUI. That is not the case in Florida.

These devices allow offenders to continue to drive when sober, which allows them to get to work and treatment.

The devices are often effective. Interlocks reduce repeat offenses by two-thirds and reduce fatalities by 15 percent, MADD reports.

Call it tough love but driving is a privilege. It should be restricted when drivers prove they can’t be trusted to drive sober.

There is hardly a city in America that has not been touched by deaths caused by opioids.

Cities are struggling to address the crisis, which is a moving target.

In Jacksonville, peer counselors have been effective in pairing opioid users with treatment.

In Chicago, the city has taken a variety of steps, wrote former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in The Wall Street Journal.

‒ All city labor contracts were modified so that no health plan could authorize more than a seven-day supply of addictive painkillers except in end-of-life situations.

‒ A $750 licensing fee was imposed on medical sales reps with all the funding dedicated to drug rehabilitation.

Emanuel also says that any settlement of the civil opioid lawsuits should require that at least 50 percent of the funds go to rehabilitation.

Bay officials working to stem the opioid epidemic ought to check the Chicago policies, though Florida also has moved to limit the number of days opioids can be prescribed.

These principles ought to be followed by other public health issues, since addition issues seem to be a stubborn fact of American life.

In fact, the United States is the only developed nation with a decreasing average life span.

Overdoses play a large part in this tragic statistic.

This guest editorial was originally published in The Palm Beach Post.