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Interior launches effort to fight drunk driving

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk announced Nov. 18 the launch of an effort by the Indian Affairs Indian Highway Safety Program and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services to help tribes keep drunk drivers off their roads.

The IHSP and BIA-OJS recently acquired four BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing) Mobiles for tribal use to enforce traffic laws and ordinances and to reduce injuries and fatalities due to driving under the influence. The 40-foot long mobile units, which cost approximately $300,000 apiece, feature state-of-the art lighting, camera and communications systems.

Purchase of the vehicles was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Highway Traffic Safety Program, according to Interior officials.

Two of the four BAT mobiles were delivered to the OJS District 5 in Billings, Mont. Nov. 4 and one was delivered to the OJS District 4 in Albuquerque, N.M. Nov. 9. The last BAT mobile was delivered to the OJS District 2 in Muscogee, Okla. Nov. 17.

The districts plan to use the vehicles to serve 77 federally recognized tribes, with a combined population of 581,756 in seven states.

According to the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, from 2002 to 2006, 3,262 Native Americans lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 57 percent involved an alcohol-impaired driver or motorcycle operator who was at or above the legal limit.