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It was one of my first questions, and it seemed like such a simple one. I really thought that the gentleman I was speaking to, a veteran in the trenches with a distinguished career tackling drunk driving, would have a definitive answer. Initially surprised by the response, it didn’t take long to realize that his answer was the best description of the “DUI Issue” I’ve heard to-date.

The question I asked: “So, who is ultimately responsible for the ‘DUI Issue?’” The answer:

“Well, everyone and no one.”

A little bit of time and research reveals no fewer than a dozen government agencies tasked with something related to DUI. None exclusively, but rather with DUI as part of a larger (and often unrelated) agenda. I’ve found an unending number of local, state, and national special interests and nonprofits that focus on DUI, yet even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) doesn’t make DUI their exclusive issue—underage drinking is now part of their agenda.

All of these groups spend time and resources on studying, talking about, increasing awareness of, looking for “solutions” for drunk driving. All of them have goals and missions. Some organizations focus on the road—traffic safety. Another focuses on addiction and human behavior. Another focuses on the addiction as a disease. Still another has guidelines to reduce drunk driving based on…..road safety again. Subgroups focus on technology. Yet others talk about behavioral triage, how to identify those with the biggest issues and whether they should be mandated to undergo treatment immediately or only once they have a violation. Still others look at the global topic of mental health issues and, by default, alcohol dependence (and then drunk driving) creeps in to the agenda.

But who is coordinating the effort? Who is focusing expectations? Objectives? Who is ultimately accountable? Who is driving the proverbial bus?

Everyone and no one.

There are few common incentives, and despite the apparent simplicity of the issue—stop drunk driving—there are actually few common goals. Stephen K. Talpins, the gentleman to whom I posed the question, believes that in actuality, despite the appearance of competing agendas and the inherent delays that plague progress, every organization dealing with drunk driving is probably in consensus on 90% of the issue and possible solutions. And to underscore his point, he runs yet another organization, the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime, designed to bring all these groups together in an effort to focus the resources, clearly define the objectives, and look at ways to affect change outside the auspices (yet with the blessings of) government funding, timelines, and politics. NPAMC has moved at a blinding pace over the last three years compared to many, if for nothing more than to get a group of stakeholders to discuss and agree on the 90%. Important, vital work. But the buck certainly doesn’t stop at NPAMC, either.

MADD is probably the very best example in the industry of a group that has evaluated and defined its mission; established clear, concise, measurable objectives; and has worked to focus exclusively—some would say myopically—on those goals. They are undeterred and undistracted, and continuously evaluating progress. They divvy up responsibilities, deploy their resources (whether their resources or through strategic relationships) to maximize the skills of each, and work as a central group to which all these entities ultimately report back for yet more evaluation. MADD’s public awareness campaigns since the mid-1980s have done far more to reduce drunk driving and alcohol-related fatalities than probably all other agencies and organizations combined. And while undeniably influential, the buck doesn’t stop with MADD, either.

And all of this begs the question: Who should be responsible?

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.

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