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The long, slow battle against DWI

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By Sherry Robinson

As long as people drive to bars, we’ll have drunks causing accidents.

Those were the words of a UNM sociology professor I used to work with who was an expert on DWI.

This year, like every other year in memory, the Legislature will tackle DWI. The governor has proposed some strict new measures to “defeat this problem once and for all.”

Once and for all. Brave words.

Thanks to the state’s public servants, lawmakers, cops, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other reformers – and some public restraint – we’re making progress. Lately, we’ve dropped off the top-ten list of DWI fatalities for the first time – New Mexico was a shameful first in 1996 – but DWI still casts a long shadow even when we’re 11th.

If it seems like progress is agonizingly slow, take the long view. From 1975 to 1977, New Mexico had the worst drinking problem in the nation, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which measured per-capita deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholism, and booze-fueled traffic accidents, homicides and suicides.

Three counties in those years were among the top 10 nationally: McKinley (2nd), Guadalupe (8th) and Rio Arriba (10th).  

So a ranking of 11th really is a big deal, all things considered.


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