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Impaired Driving
 

 

Americans are nearly unanimous in their view of impaired driving as a threat to the community – 97 percent see it as a threat, according to NHTSA. A survey by NHTSA also showed that 3 out of 4 Americans strongly endorse using stricter and more severe penalties against impaired drivers to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Their concern is not unfounded. CDC data shows that about every 30 minutes, someone is killed in an alcohol-related crash in the U.S. Every two minutes, about the time it takes to scan this page, someone will be injured.

Despite the big gains made during the 1980s and 1990s in reducing impaired driving deaths, progress has leveled off. Today, about 40 percent of vehicle crash deaths still involve alcohol. To once again bring major reductions in fatalities, national and state organizations are rallying around several specific and effective strategies, and certain populations of drivers:

 

Top Strategies to Reduce Impaired Driving

 

Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI)

SBI is effective at reducing risky drinking and alcohol-related problems. Employers can provide SBI through Employee Assistance Programs and other health benefits. Problem drinking occurs when alcohol is used in a way that can be harmful to the drinker or others, causing injury, disease or other health problems. An analysis of over 360 research studies found that SBI is the most cost-effective strategy to reduce risky drinking and help people with drinking problems get effective treatment. The traffic safety community is taking notice of SBI  to help reduce impaired driving. Resources:

NSC's Texas Employer Traffic Safety Program impaired driving prevention website explains how SBI works and shares links to sample online screenings.

Workplace Screening & Brief Intervention: What Employers Can and Should Do About Excessive Alcohol Use Employers have promoted screening and treatment for illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and depression. This report explains applying similar strategies to problem drinking.

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Overview This 2005 NHTSA publication shares what this strategy is and how to promote it.

SBI - The Nation's New Intervention Strategy to Stop Impaired Driving NHTSA provides links to resources and national partners supporting SBI.

21 Minimum Drinking Age LawAccording to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when the drinking age was raised to 21, crashes decreased almost 30 percent. NHTSA estimates nearly 25,000 teen traffic deaths have been prevented. The percentage of teen drivers killed in crashes with a BAC above the legal limit has dropped from 56 percent in 1982 to 23 percent in 2005. Groups in support of the 21 drinking age law include the National Safety CouncilMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Governors Highway Safety AssociationNational Transportation Safety Board, the American Medical Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Resources:

Support 21 Coalition Formed in response to the debate about the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Law, to educate the public about the scientific research behind the law and how it saves lives. At this site, find a history of the drinking age law, information about how alcohol affects the teen brain, and resources and tips for parents, educators and communities to prevent underage drinking.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Status Report The December 2008 newsletter summarizes research on the effectiveness of age 21 laws. According to IIHS, "Sometimes research findings are mixed, so they can be, and often are, used to support competing policy positions. But sometimes research findings are so crystal clear that there’s not much room for dissension. This is true when it comes to the minimum age for legally purchasing alcohol, often referred to as the drinking age."

High Visibility Enforcement

Enforcement + High Visibility Media = Effectiveness. The National Enforcement Crackdown in the weeks leading up to Labor Day is designed to inform the public that law enforcement will bring consequences to drinking and driving. These crackdowns include saturation patrols and media blitzes to influence public perception about enforcement. High visibility enforcement is one of the few known effective strategies to change widespread driver behavior. Resources:

NHTSA's National Crackdown Campaign Headquarters has free materials for enforcement and public outreach campaigns at strategic times throughout the year: Labor Day, Halloween, National Teen Driver Safety Week, etc. Campaigns include "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving," "Over the Limit. Under Arrest" and "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk."

Eight Case Studies of Sustained, High-Visibility, Impaired-Driving Enforcement  published by NHTSA in 2005 shares enforcement programs that were supported by vigorous publicity and education campaigns. This report provides law enforcement managersand others with information about developing similar programs in their jurisdictions.

Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints add to the public's perception of increased likelihood of being caught, reducing impaired driving as prevention. Research finds them effective at reducing alcohol-related crashes by about 20 percent, according to the CDC. Not all states can conduct sobriety checkpoints. Resources:

Sobriety Checkpoint Laws The Governors Highway Safety Association provides a current list on status of state use of sobriety checkpoints.

The Community Guide - Sobriety Checkpoints Learn more about the strong evidence of sobriety checkpoint effectiveness in reducing alcohol-impaired driving, alcohol-related crashes, and fatal and nonfatal injuries.

 

Ignition Interlocks

Repeat offenders are a significant factor in impaired driving crashes. According to NHTSA, of the 1.5 million impaired driving arrests each year, one-third involve repeat offenders. This population of offenders may need a prevention strategy that's more intensive than education and enforcement. Ignition interlock technology can be effective at reducing impaired driving while it is installed on the vehicle. In almost every state, judges can order interlocks for drunk driving offenders. Resources:

NHTSA Ignition Interlock Meeting: The Use of Alcohol Ignition Interlocks for Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism Interlocks are used for about 20 percent of  cases for which they could be prescribed. In 2007, NHTSA convened a meeting with representatives of the judicial system to discuss the role of alcohol ignition interlocks in reducing drunk driving fatalities.

Support for Prosecution and DWI court

According to NHTSA, the success of enforcement depends on an effective adjudication system. If any part of the system breaks down, offenders will not be subject to consequences, which weakens deterrence and is a disincentive to law enforcement. If DWI cases are not addressed effectively, offenders will be more likely to continue driving impaired. To ensure the system works effectively, NHTSA is placing a priority on improving DWI prosecution and establishing DWI courts. 

The Nation's Top Strategies to Stop Impaired Driving - Support for Prosecutors and DWI Courts NHTSA provides an overview of this strategy.

National Drug Court Institute provides information on the effectiveness of DWI and drug courts in reducing impaired driving, and shares resources for establishing a DWI court.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

NSC Research & Statistical Services -- Injury Facts® is a complete reference source for safety statistics, covering most motor vehicle crash factors including impaired driving. 

MORE STATISTICS

NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System National database providing annual data on motor vehicle crash fatal injuries.

NHTSA Traffic Safety Fact Sheets Reports explaining data including alcohol-impaired driving.

CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Statistics Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), death and injury charts, and more.

 
 
 
 
 
 

EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES

The Nation's Top Strategies to Stop Impaired Driving

Countermeasures That Work is a reference guide published by GHSA to share effective, science-based countermeasures for major highway safety problem areas. See the Alcohol-Impaired Driving strategy section.

The Community Guide is compiled by the CDC to share effectiveness ratings for common prevention strategies. Discover what works and what doesn't. Visit the Alcohol and Alcohol-Impaired Driving sections.

 
   
 
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