MADD all smiles over new definition of drunk driving

WASHINGTON: Mothers Against Drunk Driving walked away with a legislative victory last week by taking Washington's emerging credo to heart: if at first your legislation does not succeed, attach it as a rider.

WASHINGTON: Mothers Against Drunk Driving walked away with a legislative victory last week by taking Washington's emerging credo to heart: if at first your legislation does not succeed, attach it as a rider.

WASHINGTON: Mothers Against Drunk Driving walked away with a legislative victory last week by taking Washington's emerging credo to heart: if at first your legislation does not succeed, attach it as a rider.

The nonprofit group had devoted four years of public policy and PR efforts to support a bill - signed by President Clinton last Monday - that implements the first national definition for drunk driving (a.08 blood alcohol level).

The legislation, which is attached to a massive dollars 58 billion Department of Transportation spending bill, was initially thrown out of Congress two years ago. In 1998 members of Newt Gingrich's House Rules Committee, faced with intense pressure from alcohol and hospitality interest groups, blocked the bill from ever reaching the floor, despite a 62-32 vote in the Senate.

According to Brandy Anderson, director of public policy for the MADD national office, that defeat lead to the under-the-radar approach employed this time by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chief sponsor of the bill.

MADD's PR efforts, however, have been anything but subtle. 'We rallied in legislators' home districts,' Anderson said. 'We had people on the Hill going to these same congressmen pushing for their support. We have been educating the public for the last four years.'

MADD even used its 20th anniversary as an opportunity to gather 800 people - all of whom had lost loved ones who allegedly could have been saved by the proposed standard - on the steps of the Capitol building.

But opposition to the bill was intense. One of the primary public policy groups leading the assault was the American Beverage Institute, an association of alcohol-serving restaurant operators.

John Doyle, director of communications for the institute, said, 'Past the hype and the PR, this is a worthless law. It's a goodbye gift for Lautenberg.' Doyle claims that the standard of a.08 blood-alcohol level is too low, and therefore will discourage only casual drinkers.



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