The report gives Iowa one-and-a-half stars out of five for its various laws and efforts to deter and arrest impaired motorists and keep them from repeating the offense. Frank Harris, MADD’s director of state government affairs, says only two states scored lower.
Harris says, “Iowa needs to take action to improve their drunk driving law as it’s lacking some key countermeasures, specifically, utilizing ignition interlocks or in-car breathalyzers for all drunk drivers, as well as tying in the use of ignition interlocks with any type of driving privileges post-drunk driving arrest.” The interlock device is wired into a vehicle’s ignition system and a convicted drunk driver must blow into the device in order to start the vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle won’t start.
A state report this week found almost one-third of the fatal crashes in Iowa this year were alcohol-related and Harris says it’s clear, something needs to change. “The state needs to give law enforcement more tools to fight drunk driving by allowing for law enforcement to do what’s called a sobriety checkpoint,” Harris says. “Thirty-eight states plus DC utilize sobriety checkpoints. The goal of a sobriety checkpoint is not necessarily to catch a drunk driver but to deter somebody from driving drunk in the first place.”
He says such checkpoints are proven effective in reducing drunk driving deaths by 20 percent. No states got a 5-star rating this year. Michigan got one star and Montana only got a half-a-star. Part of Iowa’s one-and-a-half star rating comes from the state’s administrative license revocation law.
“There’s a process upon arrest where someone’s license can be taken away but the issue with that is, 41 states have laws like this and they’re very effective and Iowa’s one of them,” Harris says, “but the problem is, Iowa doesn’t utilize ignition interlocks immediately following a drunk driving arrest.”
He says the average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before a first arrest. Last year, the MADD report says Iowa had 78 drunk driver-related deaths and 937 alcohol-related crash injuries, as well as 9,028 DUI arrests.
The report, “Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, 2016 Report to the Nation,” is being released as the country begins holiday celebrations that mark a deadly period of drunk driving crashes. Nationwide last year, 973 people were killed in drunk driving crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which is nearly 10% of all drunk driving crashes for the year.