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Arizona is near the top of the nation for a topic which, like golf, would have us all feel better if the score were substantially lower. According to the East Valley Tribune, alcohol played a factor in almost half of all fatal automobile crashes last year. A report prepared by an organization known as

End Needless Death on Our Roadways, shows Arizona is 15th in alcohol-related fatal crashes, just behind South Carolina and Illinois.

“Arizona definitely does not like being listed on this,” said Michael Hegarty, spokesman for the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, “but we are taking every measure to decrease our numbers.”

These statistics are no doubt troubling in a state which recently allowed bars and nightclubs to remain open an extra hour until two o’clock in the morning. Also, these statistics should serve as a stark reminder to all of us to drive defensively, wear your seatbelt and do not take unnecessary risks; you never know if you will be the next victim of an impaired driver. According to Michael Hegarty,

“No state can be proud of being this high,” he said, “especially since alcohol-related crashes are one of the more easily preventable ones.”

Reducing these statistics should become a priority for all of us. Drivers should not take irresponsible risks by drinking to the point of impairment and driving. Get a designated driver or take a cab! Police should provide enforcement to catch those drivers who get behind the wheel and place themselves and the public at risk. Likewise, local bars and restaurants can and should play an important enforcement role by training staff to avoid overserving drunk patrons and offering a safe ride home if needed. Bars and restaurants are licensed by the State Liquor Board which allows them to earn a profit from the sale of alcohol. Based on the dangers of drinking and driving, Arizona law prevents these businesses from profiting by overserving alcohol to patrons. If a bar or restaurant overserves liquor to a patron, it should either offer a safe ride home or if rejected, call the police. Like any other businesses, a license to earn a profit requires that businesses earn that profit by acting responsibly.

If all else fails and a family becomes victimized based upon the behavior of an irresponsible drunk driver, organizations such as MADD Arizona provide victim assistance. Actually the MADD organization also provides prevention resources and support to the community in order to eliminate drunk driving altogether. According to the national MADD President,

“The real possibility of eliminating drunk driving in this country is a powerful, even audacious, idea. Yet the tools are now at hand. Using technology, tougher enforcement, stronger laws and grassroots mobilization, the goal of eliminating a primary public health threat that has plagued the United States is within our reach,” said Glynn Birch, national president of MADD.

Let us make a commitment to prevent drunk driving as outlined by the MADD national president. Such a commitment must start at the grass roots level, one driver, one business and one law enforcement representative at a time. Making such a commitment will lead to a reduction in alcohol related fatal crashes and will drop Arizona from among the top fifteen states in this sad statistical category.

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