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Police efforts do little to change fatal DUI rates

Last week, we discussed the sharp increase in the number of drunk-driving car accidents throughout the state. Even though law enforcement officers are stepping up their efforts to prevent DUIs in Montana, fatal crashes continue to occur, with more intoxicated drivers getting behind the wheel.

In an effort to squelch the rising number of DUI deaths, Montana police have launched a holiday-themed campaign featuring a lineup of no-nonsense deputies. The campaign demonstrates officers' commitment to catching drunk drivers, telling vehicle operators that they will be watching for DUI offenders during these high-risk holiday weekends.

Montanans from Miles City to Bozeman are reporting a change in community sentiment toward drunk driving. Officers in the state's capitol say they look forward to analyzing final statistics about drunk-driving arrests from this year. Authorities say their conviction rate is likely to be higher than ever, thanks to the increased surveillance efforts. Add to that new laws that mandate alcohol training for state food servers and several other legislative efforts, and officers say they cannot help but succeed in cracking down on the DUI problem.

Now, drivers who refuse a breath test automatically have their licenses suspended for six months. They could still be forced to submit to a blood draw thanks to a new warrant procedure in the state designed to quickly analyze blood alcohol content among suspected drunk drivers.

All of these measures serve to protect the innocent drivers on Montana's roads who are so often the victims of senseless DUI crashes. During the holiday season, drivers have the distinct choice to hand off their keys or take a taxi home, but many fail to understand the implications of driving drunk. Montana has experienced one of its highest DUI conviction and death rates on record, which means that scores of innocent victims have been injured or killed thanks to a few drivers' bad choices.

Fortunately, victims of such accidents do have legal options to recover damages from the drivers who injured them. It may come as a small consolation after a painful and frightening accident, but a civil lawsuit can provide victims with the financial support they need to recover from their injuries, as well as a measure of closure that comes with the completion of the case.

Source: Missoulian, "Despite efforts, Montana sees rise in fatal DUI crashes," Gwen Florio, Dec. 17, 2012

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