It has been many decades now since large-scale efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving in Tennessee have been initiated. Advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving along with local governments and law enforcement entities are just some of the groups behind this awareness. However, even with these efforts and laws that might be stricter than they were in years past, too many people continue to be injured or killed by drunk drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 291 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in Knox County between 2012 and 2016. Of those, 77 died in accidents involving alcohol. That means more than 26 percent of all fatalities during that five-year period were due to drunk drivers.

Statewide, the number of vehicular fatalities associated with impaired driving due to alcohol remains concerning. In 2016, there were 223 such deaths. While this number is lower than in prior years, it nonetheless is 223 deaths higher than it should be.

The ongoing deaths and realities of drunk driving accidents make it logical to wonder if the state’s drunk driving laws are tough enough.

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, it is not until a person is convicted of fourth drunk driving offense that a charge is considered a felony. A fourth driving under the influence charge is treated as a Class E felony. First, second and third offenses are still treated as misdemeanors. A DUI may be charged against a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. It is not until a BAC exceeds 0.20 percent that consequences increase.