Debate over how to prevent drunk driving after new report released

The holiday season may be one of the most joyous times of the year, but it can also be one of the most dangerous out on the roads, with hundreds of people killed by drunk drivers every December. It’s a problem countless Americans want to see stopped, but there’s some conflict when it comes to figuring out the best way to do it.

A new report released Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that the way “high-risk impaired drivers” are dealt with needs to change. The group wants to see a more individualized approach taken with offenders who may have especially high blood alcohol contents or multiple substances in their system or are repeat offenders.

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“We are not necessarily getting to the root of the problem with these offenders and we need to take a different approach,” said Pam Shadle Fischer, the report’s author. “Yes we get these people off the road, but we also look more deeply into what is driving this behavior. What’s the problem? Is it a substance abuse problem? Is it substance abuse coupled with mental health issues?”

Shadle Fischer said the approach is already being implemented in some pockets of the country, including in Virginia. But the report is being slammed by a group that may surprise you — Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

FILE: A buzzed driving is drunk driving sign in Ft Pierce, Florida. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“All drunk drivers are high risk drivers. Every single one,” said MADD President Helen Witty. “It actually makes me angry to see a [report] like that because it is disingenuous.”

Witty said that while MADD has supported a holistic approach to preventing drunk driving for decades, she believes the GHSA report is a diversion funded in part by the alcohol industry, adding that the information in the study isn’t new. She also took issue with the idea that some drunk or impaired drivers are higher-risk than others.

“We want every single person to understand that a drunk driver is a dangerous driver no matter what their BAC is,” Witty said,

The GHSA responded to MADD by saying in part that they believe all drunk drivers need to be held accountable. They also added, “the worst offenders require different interventions to keep them from offending again and again. If we ever hope to stop these drunk and drugged drivers, we must incorporate proven approaches — the types of approaches outlined in this report.”

Click here to read the GHSA report in full