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Archive 1993 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

DUI DEATHS DOWN SHARPLY SINCE ’82 BUT FOUR RECENT FATALITIES HAVE RENEWED CALLS FOR MORE ACTION.

In a recent 10-day span, four people died and three others were critically injured in alcohol-related car crashes in South Hampton Roads.

The accidents stirred outrage, brought cries for tougher laws and caused the phones to ring almost nonstop at the offices of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Virginians Opposing Drunk Driving.

But statistics released this week indicate that laws now on the books and the lobbying efforts and public awareness campaigns of such organizations have produced dramatic results.

In recent years, the number of alcohol-related fatalities has fallen sharply in Hampton Roads, in Virginia and across the nation:

Between 1982 and 1992, the number of drinking-related deaths nationwide dropped by about 8,500.

During the same decade, the percentage of all auto fatalities in Virginia that were alcohol-related fell by almost 10 percent, from 52.8 percent to 43.1 percent.

In 1990, 58 people were killed by drunken drivers in South Hampton Roads – 59 percent of all driving fatalities. Last year, that number had fallen to 35 – 40 percent – in the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk.

Experts attribute the decline to tougher law enforcement and more awareness, particularly among teenagers, of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Lillian DeVenny, who heads and helped form Virginians Opposing Drunk Driving, said her organization and groups like it deserve some credit for that trend. “We do believe that what we’re doing is working,” she said.

But DeVenny and others point out that their work is far from over, as the two recent fatal accidents, one in Virginia Beach and the other in Suffolk, clearly show.

“We’ve still got a segment of the population out there who’s not listening,” said DeVenny, of Virginia Beach. “We’ve come a long way and the figures show it. But, oh my God, we’ve still got a ways to go . . . Any time we see what we’ve just seen, we know the drunk drivers are still out there.

“The mood is indignation and anger. I don’t think in all the years I’ve been doing this I’ve seen the public respond in such a positive manner. These cases have set people off. The public is crying out, `We’ve had enough.’ ”

A 23-year-old woman called to tell DeVenny that two family friends had just been killed in West Virginia. “It’s time I get involved,” she said.

Two homebound women offered to stuff envelopes. Survivors of accidents involving drunken drivers have called to talk about their experiences. People offered to go to Richmond to lobby for tougher laws. Others wanted statistics for papers or speeches.

The outrage may have an impact on the 1994 General Assembly, which begins next month. Several lawmakers plan to show up armed with bills to further combat highway carnage.

State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who saw his share of fatal accidents as a Virginia Beach police officer, has been active in efforts to keep drunken drivers off the roads.

“It doesn’t affect most Virginians until someone they know or someone in their family is killed or hurt by a drunk driver,” he said. “Unfortunately, society as a whole is still willing to tolerate the drunk driver. Until that changes, we can do anything we want at the legislative level and we’re not going to resolve the problem.

“We have to have that commitment that it’s not going to be tolerated to go out and drink and then drive. I can’t think of anything else that society accepts that we know kills people.”

Stolle said citizens need to remember that they have a voice in getting the laws changed through their lawmakers.

“These bills will save lives,” Stolle said.

Del. Glenn Croshaw, D-Virginia Beach, says he is horrified by each new report of a death or injury caused by a drunken driver, especially since laws he believes could have made a difference have failed in past legislative sessions.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “Many of these fatal accidents that are alcohol-related are multiple-conviction individuals. There is just story after story.”

Croshaw is convinced that a law that would allow police officers to pull a suspected drunken driver’s license at the scene is a good way to save lives.

“We’ve said as a society, `We don’t want you drinking and driving,’ ” Croshaw said. “We need to get serious about it . . . I think what we’re moving to in society is zero tolerance for everyone.”

Some of the calls into local MADD and VODD offices are from people with children too young to drive. Their parents are thinking ahead.

“I don’t care what age you are,” said Brenda Vaccarelli, founder and current president of the Peninsula chapter of MADD. “Alcohol-related fatalities don’t discriminate. They affect everyone . . . Alcohol-related deaths have decreased, but one is one too many. That’s the bottom line. We want to be put out of business.”

Michael Goodove, chairman of the Southside Community Action Team of MADD, said the latest statistics reflect enhanced public awareness of the problem.

“People use designated drivers much more,” he said. “They think before they drink. People are more aware that when you get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking, it’s the same thing as firing a weapon into a crowd.”

Caption:
Color photo
BETH BERGMAN/Staff
Police from all over Hampton Roads attend a meeting Wednesday at the
Hampton Coliseum parking lot to raise awareness of drunken driving.
The event kicked off National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention
Month. Recently, the Virginia State Police announced plans to set up
sobriety checkpoints in cooperation with local law enforcement
agencies in a monthlong campaign to battle drunken driving on
Virginia highways.

Graphics
STAFF
ALCOHOL-RELATED DRIVING DEATHS DECLINE
SOURCE: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
[For complete graphic information, please see microfilm]

LEGISLATION
Proposed in the 1994 General Assembly:
Reduce from 0.10 to 0.08 the blood alcohol level at which a
driver is considered to be drunk.
Make a third offense of driving under the influence punishable by
one to five years in prison or up to 12 months in jail and a fine.
Add “driving after drinking” to the offenses underage drinkers
can be charged with. The law calls for punishment as a Class 1
misdemeanor and suspension of driver’s license for a year.
Recoup from drivers the money that accidents cost localities.
Allow police to pull a suspect’s license at the scene.
Voicing your opinion
Call your state legislator or send word through these
organizations:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
South Hampton Roads: 670-3830
Peninsula: 595-4101
Virginians Opposing Drunk Driving: 497-2494

Copyright (c) 1993 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9312020796

Categories
Archive 1993 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

HOT LINE WILL LET DRIVERS REPORT DUI SUSPECTS \ THE STATE POLICE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE TO SPRINT CUSTOMERS

When the Norfolk man saw a car swerve along Interstate 264, hit another car on Waterside Drive and then drive on, he grabbed his cellular phone and called police.

A dispatcher told him to wait for an officer. But when the drunk drove on, so did the man – through Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, until three patrol cars ended the chase and he was finally able to hang up.

“I kept seeing my wife in that damaged car,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “I previously worked in an emergency room. I used to see what drunk driving can do.”

State police on Thursday urged other car-phone owners to report drunken drivers.

Along with Sprint Cellular and Hampton Roads Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the troopers announced the creation of a DUI hot line that will allow Sprint customers in southeastern Virginia to report suspected drunken drivers toll-free by dialing *DUI (*384).

It is the first time such a service has been available in Virginia, where there were 40,107 drunken-driving arrests last year, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Forty-five percent of the state’s 839 auto fatalities in 1992 were alcohol-related.

Sprint officials said the hot line has been successfully tested in Las Vegas and New Mexico. In Las Vegas, such calls have resulted in an average of five drunken-driving arrests a month.

But the extent of the local program is unknown because Sprint officials would say only that they had “many thousands of customers” and would not release an exact number.

There may be some minor problems with the new system.

The calls go into one of only three 911 phone lines at state police headquarters in Chesapeake. Police are asking callers to stay on the line if there is no answer.

Robert Sage, Sprint’s general manager for Hampton Roads, also said the new system is meant to encourage callers to report drunken drivers, not police them.

“This is going to put people on notice,” said Michael Goodove, a local MADD official. “Now, everyone with a cellular phone is going to have the power to turn suspected drunk drivers in.”

Copyright (c) 1993 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9305140630