Two beautiful families killed by wrong-way drunk drivers on Kentucky’s I-75 would still be here today if existing drunk driving prevention technology had been installed on all cars.
MADD is heartbroken for the families of Catherine Greene (30) and the four children in her car at the time — Santanna (11), Karmen (9), Brayden (5) and Jack (2) — who died June 5. The wrong-way driver who killed the family had a blood-alcohol level of .205 — well over twice the legal limit, authorities confirmed. The impaired driver, who also died, reportedly also had meth and painkillers in her system.
We were equally heartsick on January 6, 2019, when a wrong-way drunk driver on I-75 killed the Abbas family: Rima (38), Issam (42), Ali (13), Isabella (12) and Giselle (7). They were driving through Kentucky to their home in Michigan, from a Florida vacation.
The Greene crash happened near the 104-mile marker on I-75, while the Abbas family was hit near the 107-mile marker. Tragically, both tragedies occurred just an hour away from the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history: the 1988 head-on collision with a church group’s bus near Carrollton, Kentucky, that killed 27 of the 67 people aboard.
As the survivor of someone else’s decision to operate a vessel while drunk, I know intimately the physical and emotional pain everyone involved goes through during and after such a terrible tragedy. Words cannot adequately convey the suffering, grief and anger that victims and survivors endure. The experience changes you forever. It changed me.
I am especially outraged by these families’ deaths because they were 100% preventable. How? With existing technology, including:
▪ Driving performance monitoring systems that monitor the vehicle movement with systems like lane departure warning and attention assist;
▪ Driver monitoring systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors;
▪ Alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.
MADD has worked for 41 years to change driver behavior and has reduced drunk driving by 52%. But halfway isn’t good enough. Too many impaired by alcohol still make the wrong choice, with deadly consequences.
Six of every 10 wrong-way crashes are caused by drunk drivers, according to a recent AAA study. The U.S. Transportation Department recently reported that alcohol-related traffic deaths jumped by 9% in 2020 compared to 2019, even though vehicle miles traveled dropped by 430 billion miles.
Technology is how we’re going to finally end drunk driving. More than 9,400 lives could be saved every year if every car has this technology.
That is why MADD, along with the distillers, strongly support bipartisan legislation that Congress is considering right now to get this lifesaving technology into all new cars. The HALT (Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate Drunk Driving) Act (HR 2138) was introduced in the House by Representatives Debbie Dingell, David McKinley and Kathleen Rice. The bill is now included in the INVEST in America Act (HR 3684), that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on July 1.
The RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act (S.1331) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Ben Ray Luján and Rick Scott. The Senate added the RIDE Act into the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee-approved Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 (S. 2016).
It is time for our Congress to pass this legislation so drunk driving prevention technology will be installed in all new cars to finally end the heartbreak of impaired driving forever.
Alex Otte, a Lexington resident, is the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).