- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Alcohol-related traffic deaths and crashes have risen in the Washington area while drunken-driving arrests are at the lowest rate in more than a decade, according to a report released yesterday.
"The fight against drunk driving hasn't just stalled," said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). "It has shifted into reverse and is careening down hill at a rapid rate of speed."
The 10th annual "How Safe are Our Roads?" report was prepared by the George Mason University Center for the Advancement of Public Health and released yesterday by WRAP.
Researchers found that alcohol- or drug-related traffic deaths in the region increased by 36 percent from 1998 through 2001.
Last year marked the third consecutive increase in such deaths. In 2000, there were 95, while last year the number climbed to 106.
Area traffic crashes blamed on alcohol and drugs increased by 20 percent between 1997 and 2001, marking the fourth consecutive year with an increase. But from 1990 to 2001, arrests for driving under the influence were down by 50 percent.
"These numbers and this report should serve as wake-up calls for the region to increase funding for enforcement, increase the use of sobriety checkpoints, increase sanctions for convicted, higher-risk drivers and increase the public's understanding that the fight against drunk driving is not yet won," Mr. Erickson said.
The report was released at the beginning of the most deadly time of year for drunken driving.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more people are killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than during any other period of the year.


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