FAIRBANKS - Alaska has received one of the worst grades in the nation from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for its efforts to combat drunken driving. Only Montana did worse this year.
On a recently released report card of the states, Alaska scored a D-minus. Massachusetts also got a D-minus, and Montana flunked.
"We're dismayed," Cindy Cashen, executive director of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter in Juneau, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "Drunk driving rates are increasing."
Alaska's report card says 43 of 85 of the traffic crash deaths in 2001 were alcohol-related. That rate, over 50 percent, is one of the deadliest in the nation, according to MADD.
Alaska's grade dropped from a C-minus in 2000. No state received an A, because the rate of drunken-driving deaths has risen across the country. America as a whole received a C, down from a C-plus.
MADD issues its report card every other year. The new report counts 17,448 drunken-driving deaths nationwide in 2001, up 5 percent from 16,572 in 1999.
"The nation's lower grade reflects the lack of political will, leadership and resources dictated to waging a winning war on drunk driving," MADD national president Wendy J. Hamilton said in a statement.
Alaska got credit from MADD for efforts to catch more drunk drivers, such changing the blood alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08 this year.
The report card also mentions the recent increase in Alaska's alcohol excise tax, now the highest in the nation. The tax on a bottle of wine went from 17 cents to 50 cents, on six-packs of beer from 20 cents to 60 cents, and on a bottle of hard liquor from $1.10 to $2.54.
But the report card says Alaska has no law that lowers the allowable blood alcohol limit for those who already have been arrested for drunken driving. The state also lacks enhanced penalties for a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher.