MADD sets its legislative priorities for 2002
By By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
Jan. 21, 2002
Danny Berry is confident this is the year the state legislature will adopt a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) bill, something Mothers Against Drunk Driving have asked for for years.
Berry has been state executive director of MADD since July. For 10 years previously he worked in the field of addiction with Baptist Health Systems in Jackson, serving as program director of its behavior health unit for the past two years.
A native of Magee, Berry and his family have lived in Brandon for 13 years. His comments were made during an editorial board interview with The Meridian Star.
Armed with statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, General Motors Corporation, and other sources and with a federal mandate hanging over the state, Berry said he believes the .08 legislation will pass this session. He also said it is the right thing to do.
Currently the allowed BAC for an adult in Mississippi is .10, but MADD wants tougher guidelines and the .08 BAC is what has been mandated by the federal government.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed .08 BAC legislation.
Berry said another reason he feels good about the chances of the legislature lowering the accepted BAC to .08 is because of the endorsement of the Century Council, a nonprofit organization, funded by the Distillers Industry of America.
Berry said MADD estimates 25 lives per year will be saved in Mississippi if .08 goes into effect. Mississippi has a zero tolerance of alcohol consumption for people under the age of 21.
Berry denies the allegations of critics who say the lower BAC legislation is a turn toward making criminals out of social drinkers.
Berry said he does not know why the .08 legislation has not been passed in Mississippi, except to say he doesn't think the legislators have taken it seriously enough.
The .08 legislation passed in the Senate last year, but failed in the House.
Other legislative issues
Berry said MADD is also behind proposed legislation to give the enforcement officers of the Alcohol Beverage Control Division of the State Tax Commission authority to assist in the enforcement of laws regulating light wine and beer. MADD will also push for state legislation making it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in vehicles and a bill that would make it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to be allowed in a bar unless accompanied by a parent.
MADD is opposing legislation being introduced this year that would allow designated resort areas, even in dry counties, to be eligible for licenses to serve beer and wine. Berry said another bill introduced that would allow wineries to mail bottles of wine to residences is being opposed by MADD.
Berry defines MADD's primary mission in three words, "stop drunk driving."
The national nonprofit organization, which began more than 20 years ago, focuses on victim advocacy by assisting survivors of those killed or maimed in alcohol-related crashes during court; support during the grieving process; and help in getting assistance.
MADD also provides educational programs and materials in schools to prevent underage drinking.