Since 1980 the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers has been cut in half, and that’s largely due to the actions of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Started by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, others rallied to the cause and succeeded in improving enforcement of drunk driving laws and in getting new laws passed. A state representative worked with the Sylacauga Police Department recently to help raise awareness of the crime, which is a very real threat to public safety. The group estimates 28 people die each day in wrecks that were 100 percent preventable.

The group is also pushing for another law in Alabama that will help protect the public from drivers who have already been arrested for driving drunk. The Alabama Senate passed SB 319, which will implement a law mandating the use of ignition interlocks to prevent people who have been drinking from driving their vehicles. The interlocks measure alcohol both before cranking the vehicle and again at random times to reduce driving under the influence.

Interlocks are credited not only with preventing accidents, but also with helping offenders change habits and avoid driving under the influence after the devices are removed from their vehicles.

The Legislature passed a law requiring interlocks three years ago, but the bill was flawed and was never implemented. The current bill is designed to amend the existing law so that the use of interlocks in Alabama can begin. But the bill needs a sponsor and co-sponsors in the Alabama House to proceed. With the session now more than half over, time is of the essence. We encourage our state representatives to pick up this important piece of legislation and see that it gets to the governor’s desk for a signature.

MADD estimates more than 250 people died in drunk driving wrecks in the state in 2012, representing 30 percent of all the state’s traffic fatalities. The time to act is now.