Alcohol-related crashes in Tennessee: documenting the evidence

There's No Substitute for Experience

It’s been more than 20 years now since Ken Burns’s monumental documentary “The Civil War” riveted audiences across the country.

Burns has continued to produce eye-opening work that shines a light on important periods in America’s past and offers relevant insights for the present.

A few years ago, for example, his series on the Prohibition era put the attempt to ban alcohol into perspective.

Though few would argue that America should return to that time, it must also be acknowledged that alcohol-related accidents continue to take a terrible toll in deaths and serious injuries.

In Tennessee alone, in just one recent year (2012), there were 295 drunk driving fatalities. This number accounted for 29 percent of all the traffic deaths in the state for that year.

And so authorities keep seeking solutions that will do a better job of preventing drunk driving accidents.

One tactic that more and more states are using is ignition-interlock laws. Such laws require certain offenders who are convicted of a drunk driving offense to install a device on their vehicles that will perform an instant blood-alcohol (BAC) test.

Once such a device is installed, a vehicle will not start unless the driver blows into the apparatus and achieves an acceptable BAC. Last year, Tennessee enacted such a law, joining many other states that now require ignition interlocks under various circumstances.

This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. What must be recognized, however, is that even a slight amount of drinking can cause impaired driving.

This fact is reflected in the alcohol-impaired driving data for Tennessee. In 2012, there were more than 7,000 car crashes related to alcohol, when alcohol involvement is defined as a BAC of .01 or above.

Perhaps someday Ken Burns will make a documentary about the drunk driving problem in the U.S. Unfortunately, he would have plenty of material.

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