NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


ANNIVERSARY OF NATION'S DEADLIEST DRUNK DRIVING CRASH BRINGS CALL BY NTSB CHAIRMAN FOR MORE STATE ACTION

May 12, 2008

Washington, D.C. - On the week of the 20th anniversary of the nation's deadliest drunk driving accident in which 27 people died, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker issued a call for more robust measures to reduce the number of hard core drinking drivers on America's roadways.

"Unfortunately, the tragedy of so many lives lost 20 years ago in Carrollton, Kentucky, as a result of a hard core drinking driver is repeated every day on a smaller scale," said Rosenker.  "We know how to address this problem.  What's needed are more effective measures on the state level to help ensure that responsible drivers are not endangered by those who continue to drink and drive." 

On the night of May 14, 1988, a hard core drinking driver with a .24 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) killed 24 youths and 3 adults and injured 34 others on their way home from a church outing. The drunk driver, in a pick-up truck, was traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 71 in Carrollton, Kentucky.

Hard core drinking drivers (repeat offenders with a prior driving-while-intoxicated [DWI] arrest or conviction within the past 10 years or those driving with a BAC of 0.15 or greater) make up a small fraction of the driving population but were involved in about 53% (9,414) of the 17,602 alcohol related fatalities in 2006. 

The Safety Board established a model program, which is on its "Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements," to address hard core drinking driving after determining that such a complex and intransigent behavioral problem was most effectively addressed by a multi-faceted approach.  The program consists of 11 elements - legislative, prosecutorial, and judicial measures along with vehicle sanctions and enforcement strategies - all of which have proven effective in reducing the number of accidents caused by hard core drinking drivers.

The Safety Board has partnered with the states, the Department of Transportation, and advocacy organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in support of measures addressing the challenge of keeping hard core drinking drivers off the road.  Former MADD President Karolyn Nunnallee, whose 10-year-old daughter, Patty, was killed in the Kentucky accident, said, "As we mark the 20th anniversary of the nation's deadliest crash, my heart aches for the victims/survivors of the crash as well as the thousands killed in drunk driving crashes and nearly half a million injured in alcohol related crashes every year."

While 28 states have adopted one or more elements of the model program, no state has all 11 that the Safety Board has recommended, and Kentucky currently has only four.  "While we have seen some progress in all the states, not enough has been done," said Rosenker.  "If more of the elements of our model program were implemented by the states, there would be far fewer tragedies caused by drunk drivers."

Details of the Safety Board's model program and a summary of actions needed by the states are available on the NTSB website at http://www.ntsb.gov/Recs/mostwanted/hard_core_drinking.htm

NTSB Media Contact:
Peter Knudson
(202)314-6100
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.