As Labor Day weekend nears, Arizona will roll out its familiar, highly visible arsenal to combat drunken driving, with checkpoints and ad campaign. Such tactics have helped the country and the state drive down the number and rate of deadly alcohol-related crashes in the three decades since drunken driving shot into the national conscience. Since 1995 Arizona has cut the fatality rate from drunken driving in half and closed in on the national rate, which itself tumbled nearly 30 percent, reports the Arizona Republic. In the same period, a steady 20 percent of U.S. drivers in fatal crashes had recordable blood-alcohol levels over today’s legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent.
Arizona safety experts blame the stubborn statistic on habitual offenders. “There are a percentage of people out there, regardless of the enforcement, regardless of the penalties and everything else that are going to drive drunk because they think they are never going to get caught,” said Alberto Gutier, who runs the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. In 2008, 324 people were killed by drivers who were known to have too much to drink, according to figures compiled by the Arizona Department of Transportation.