On the morning of April 14, 2005 in Tucson, Arizona, 21-year-old Aaron Anaya, Jr. was riding his motorcycle to his father’s house when a drunk driver in a pickup truck clipped his motorcycle, sending him flying into a street sign.
He immediately went into cardiac arrest, and was taken to a trauma center, where he was pronounced dead. Anaya, Jr. was a star high school football player, and was looking to get into a business degree program. According to his obituary, he loved motorcycles, football, rugby and his family. They called him their “inspiration.”
The drunk driver’s blood alcohol content was .398 grams per deciliter at the time of the accident – almost five times the legal limit.
Anaya, Jr.’s death is only one of thousands that occur every year in the U.S., according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In 2009, nearly 11,000 people were killed and more than 350,000 were injured nationally in crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, according to the latest statistics by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This Wednesday MADD will mark the fifth anniversary of its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving with a progress report rating each state on eliminating drunk driving.
The “Report to the Nation” shows that the U.S, based on an average of each state, received an overall three-star rating on a five-star scale. States earning a five-star rating include Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Utah. States earning only one star were Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota.
“These ratings are an indication of states passing effective laws and employing effective drunk driving countermeasures, and are independent of a state’s fatality numbers,” said Jan Withers, national president of MADD, whose 15-year-old daughter Alisa Joy was killed by an underage drunk driver in 1992.
The report comes just ahead of the holiday season, when road travel is expected to be heavier, and drunk driving typically increases, according to Withers.
“Nationally in 2009, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 879 people were killed by drunk drivers,” she said.
The report also finds that drunk driving costs in the U.S. are more than $132 billion annually, according to data compiled by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE).
According to MADD, in the five years since the Campaign was launched, 15 states have mandatory all-offender ignition interlock laws, up from only one state; all 50 states now have some form of ignition interlock law, up from 45; and advanced in-vehicle alcohol detection technology is no longer just a concept, but now in its second phase of development.
Ignition interlocks measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration before allowing the engine to start. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for all-offender ignition interlock laws in every state.
Arizona’s all-offender mandatory ignition interlock law went into effect in 2007, requiring an alcohol ignition interlock be installed on the vehicles on all convicted drunk drivers. Since then, Arizona has seen a 46 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities.
Gregory D. Artz, the man who hit Anaya, Jr., was a repeat offender with three DUIs on his record. If the law requiring offenders to install interlocks were in place just two years earlier, he might not have been behind the wheel that morning.