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After over 40 years of law enforcement experience, one part of the job never gets easier: notifying family members that their loved ones have died in a drunk driving crash. Tragically, this happens all too often and it happened again on January 6th when the Abbas family of Northville, Michigan was returning home after a family vacation in Florida. A drunk driver was traveling the wrong way on an interstate in Lexington, Kentucky at nearly four times the legal BAC limit when the two cars collided,  killing the five members of the Abbas Family and the drunk driver.

The drunk driver was male, 41 years old, had no prior DUI record but had a BAC of .306. Sadly, this story is far from uncommon. Drunk driving fatalities involve high BAC drivers most of the time. In 2017, 70% of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities involved drivers with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .15 or above. The same is true in Kentucky (70%) and in Michigan (70%). Let me put that into perspective for you:  For a 190 pound person to reach a .307 BAC level, he would need to consume 12 standard drinks over a 6 hour period, according to this BAC calculator.

While tremendous progress has been made to end impaired driving, every single day lives are lost to this 100% preventable crime. In this particular instance, what could have stopped this drunk driver? strongly supports the DADSS technology which is in development and would prevent a car from starting if the driver is at or above a .08 BAC level. It will soon be available on new vehicles as a seamless, reliable and unobtrusive technology that could save more than 7000 lives. We also support high visibility enforcement which is extremely effective at identifying impaired drivers but is also very effective in deterring would be impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car in the first place.

We also support ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders (a law that Kentucky is working to improve this year and a law that Michigan still needs to pass) and screening and assessment for all DUI offenders to ensure that people who have substance use and mental health disorders receive the treatment they need in tandem with sanctions to achieve behavioral change.

Most of all, we need to take action. Whether behind the wheel or behind a podium, it is everyone’s job to end impaired driving. We cannot do it alone and we must not wait until deaths occur to act. What happened to the Abbas family and to families everywhere harmed by impaired driving is unacceptable. This is a call to action: Together we will end impaired driving through a combination of personal responsibility, leadership and public advocacy. It starts with small actions:  don’t drive drunk or take drugs and drive - take a rideshare or public transportation instead, put the smartphone down for your entire drive, if you see someone who needs a safe ride home – step up and help. Be part of making the roads safer in your work life and personal life.

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