In Carbon County court yesterday it was reported that a woman had a .527 positive Blood Alcohol Concentration reading, which was the highest level that veteran officials of the local court could remember. The most frequently recorded BAC level among drivers killed in alcohol-impaired-driving accidents in 2008 was .16, or twice the legal limit.

Thankfully, the local woman was passed out when police arrived so she didn't turn her vehicle into a lethal missile on the roadway.

In the United States, drunk driving is the leading criminal cause of death, as more than 17,000 people become the victims of drunk driving accidents every year.

Other national statistics regarding drunk driving are equally sobering.

Ÿ Alcohol-related car crashes kill someone every 45 minutes and injure someone every two minutes.

Ÿ Approximately 40 percent of all motor-vehicle fatalities are alcohol-related.

Ÿ Frequent drunk drivers are responsible for almost 60 percent of alcohol-related fatalities.

Ÿ 38 percent of all Christmas-time car accident deaths and 54 percent of all New Year's car accident deaths are alcohol-related.

Ÿ Approximately 17 percent of drunk drivers injured in car accidents are charged and convicted, 11 percent are charged and not convicted, and 72 percent are never charged.

Ÿ Drunk driving accidents cost the public around $114.3 billion a year.

Ÿ About one-third of people arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders. Drunk drivers who were over the legal limit when they died in 2008 were eight times more likely to have been previously convicted.

On the state level, fatalities on Pennsylvania highways dropped to 1,256 last year, the lowest number since record keeping began in 1928.

The total number of fatalities in Carbon County in 2009 was 11, down from the 16 in 2008. Last year's number included five fatalities in drinking driver crashes.

In Schuylkill County, there were 30 total fatalities in 2009, down from 33 in 2008. Last year's total included 10 drinking driver crashes.

Monroe County also had 30 total fatalities in 2009, which was down from the 37 recorded in 2008. Last year's total included seven drinking driver crashes.

One initiative that can be credited for helping reduce fatalities across the state is the The Checkpoint Strikeforce Program. It was instituted in October 2008 as a one-year initiative by the Pennsylvania State Police.

According to State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski, the program has resulted in 4,652 DUI arrests during the past two years, and it's been decided to extend it for at least another year. The 15 regional state police troops will conduct sobriety checkpoints within its troop area on at least 20 weekends through August 2011.

During the first two years of the Checkpoint Strikeforce Program, Troop N, which includes Carbon, Columbia, Monroe and part of Luzerne counties, had 275 arrests.

During inclement weather, troops conduct roving DUI patrols rather than a checkpoint.

Pawlowski says the Checkpoint Strikeforce Program is designed "to reduce crashes, prevent injuries and save lives by identifying and arresting impaired drivers on our roads."

With these goals in mind and proof that the program has already worked, its extension certainly deserves the green light.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com