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U.S. needs uniform legislation on drunken driving, MADD reports
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Celebrating 20 years of efforts to curb drunken driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Wednesday called for uniform nationwide drunken-driving standards that are stricter than what most states now have.
Such a law, setting a minimum 0.08 blood-alcohol concentration defining a driver as drunk, would result in 500 fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths per year, said Millie I. Webb, president of the nonprofit group known as MADD, who was herself the victim of a drunken driver.
Speaking at a rally that kicked off a five-day conference in the nation's capital, Webb noted that MADD has seen traffic deaths fall by more than 40 percent, equal to 183,000 lives saved, since it undertook its anti-drunken driving mission in 1980, when alcohol-related fatalities were reaching "epidemic" levels.
Twenty years ago, Webb said, about 78 people were killed every day in alcohol-related crashes. Today that number is 44, she said.
'Revolution of change'
"Over this past 20 years, MADD has led and sparked a revolution for change," said Webb, referring to the growing public perception that drunken driving is a serious crime.
"We said something 20 years ago that shocked a lot of people -- that drunk driving is not an accident, it's a crime, a violent crime; in fact, the most frequently committed violent crime in our nation."
Last year saw just under 16,000 alcohol-related fatalities -- a record low that's still too high, Webb said. The number would drop with passage of a nationwide law setting the minimum 0.08 blood-alcohol limit, which 18 states and the District of Columbia already have adopted, Webb asserted.
Drunken-driving bill pending in Congress
Later this month, Congress is scheduled to vote on a 0.08 bill, after the Senate approved the limit in its transportation bill last June, said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, during the rally. He said Congress would "have to overcome the influence of the liquor lobby" to pass the bill.
"What's holding back progress is the lack of political will and political leadership," said Webb, who related that the drunken driver who rear-ended her family's car in 1971 had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08.
"Our car exploded on impact. I was burned over 75 percent of my body and suffered a broken neck," said Webb. She held up a photo of her 4-year-old daughter, who died in the wreck. Also killed was Webb's 19-month-old nephew.
Webb was pregnant at the time of the crash, and the trauma caused the premature birth of her daughter Kara. The girl was born "legally blind" as a result of the crash, Webb said.
She said her husband, Roy, spent 20 months in the hospital, recuperating from burns he suffered when he "extinguished our flames with his bare hands."
"Medically and scientifically, we know that truly intoxicated driving begins at .08," said Webb, noting that the driver in her case was "not legally drunk in most states, but he was drunk enough to destroy my family."
MADD, which has more than 600 chapters nationwide, was founded by a small group of California women in 1980 who were outraged over the death of a 13-year-old girl, killed by a hit-and-run driver with a history of drunken driving.
MADD members align with lawmakers on tightening national blood alcohol standards
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
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