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Officials propose stricter DUI laws

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: May 14 2013 09:20:45 PM MDT
Updated On: May 14 2013 10:26:53 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Becky Sturdevant knows all too well that the impacts of a drunk driving crash can be devastating. Her son, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Evan Schneider, died after a drunk driver hit his car back in 2008. She says the NTSB’s new proposals would be a step in the right direction.

“[Drunk driving] is a crime because it hurts people, and it maims people, and it kills people,” said Sturdevant.

The National Transportation Safety Board is proposing reducing the legal BAC driving threshold from .08 to .05. That would meet a standard adopted in more than 100 other countries. Supporters say the regulations would save lives. Drunken driving is responsible for more than a third of the more than 30,000 highway deaths in the United States.

Some critics have spoken out against the proposals, saying that .05 still falls in line with responsible behavior. MADD and AAA have also declined to endorse the proposed rules.

News of the NTSB’s recommendations came on the 25th anniversary of one of the worst drunken driving crashes in history. In 1988, a driver went on the wrong side of a Kentucky highway, hit a bus and killed 24 children and three adults.

Experts say drunken driving claims nearly 10,000 lives each year, though that figure is down from the roughly 21,000 deaths back in 1982. The NTSB is also proposing ignition interlock systems for DUI offenders.

Montana consistently has one of highest drunk-driving death rates in the country, along with Texas and Wisconsin.

We took a closer look, and pulled data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Information from 2012 isn't available yet, but in 2011 Montana had 81 DUI-related fatalities. That's 38 percent of the total traffic deaths that year.