The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently tasked the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to answer that exact question. This comprehensive review produced a nearly 500 page report containing a litany of recommendations for both state and federal governments to adopt.
One recommendation that I will highlight as it is relevant to the times is that this report is recommending that all states and the federal government adopt a per se BAC threshold of .05. We know that Utah already adopted this standard, and unless something changes in our current legislative session, this law will go into effect on December 30, 2018. The evidence showing that a person is not safe to operate a vehicle at .05 BAC is pretty significant. In fact, research has shown that a person's crash risk doubles for every .02% one goes above .00 BAC. The report details results from all around the globe where governments have reduced the per se threshold to .05 (or lower). The data is pretty staggering.
Impaired driving is a serious public safety issue. Research shows that police officers catch a very small amount of those that are actually impaired on our roadways. We will not be able to arrest our way out of this problem, and we certainly are not capable of prosecuting our way out of it either. Below you will find a full list of the recommendations made by the report, and also a link that will take you to the website that contains the full report, along with other information surrounding this important topic. As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns in your impaired driving cases.
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities
THE COMMITTEE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
State and local governments should take appropriate steps to limit or reduce alcohol availability, including restrictions on the number of on- and off-premises alcohol outlets, and the days and hours of alcohol sales.
Federal, state, and local governments should adopt and/or strengthen laws and dedicate enforcement resources to stop illegal alcohol sales (i.e., sales to already-intoxicated adults and sales to underage persons).
Federal, state, and local governments should use their existing regulatory powers to strengthen and implement standards for permissible alcohol marketing content and placement across all media, establish consequences for violations, and promote and fund counter-marketing campaigns.
State governments should enact per se laws for alcohol-impaired driving at 0.05 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The federal government should incentivize this change, and other stakeholders should assist in this process. The enactment of 0.05 percent per se laws should be accompanied by media campaigns and robust and visible enforcement efforts.
States and localities should conduct frequent sobriety checkpoints in conjunction with widespread publicity to promote awareness of these enforcement initiatives.
When the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) is accurate and available for public use, auto insurers should provide policy discounts to stimulate the adoption of DADSS. Once the cost is on par with other existing automobile safety features and is demonstrated to be accurate and effective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should make DADSS mandatory in all new vehicles.
Municipalities should support policies and programs that increase the availability, convenience, affordability, and safety of transportation alternatives for drinkers who might otherwise drive. This includes permitting transportation network company ride sharing, enhancing public transportation options (especially during nighttime and weekend hours), and boosting or incentivizing transportation alternatives in rural areas).
Every state should implement DWI courts, guided by the evidence-based standards set by the National Center for DWI Courts, and all DWI courts should include available consultation or referral for evaluation by an addiction-
All health care systems and health insurers should cover and facilitate effective evaluation, prevention, and treatment strategies for binge drinking and alcohol use disorders including screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication-assisted therapy.
All states should enact all-offender ignition interlock laws to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. An ignition interlock should be required for all offenders with a BAC above the limit set by state law. To increase effectiveness, states should consider increased monitoring periods based on the offender’s BAC or past recidivism.
NHTSA should ensure that timely standardized data on alcohol-impaired driving, crashes, serious injuries, and fatalities are collected and accessible for evaluation, research, and strategic public dissemination and that data from other government agencies and private organizations are included as needed. NHTSA should explore the usefulness of big data for inclusion in alcohol-impaired driving information strategies.
To facilitate surveillance of alcohol-impaired driving that is timely, ongoing, concise, and actionable, NHTSA should convene a diverse group of stakeholders that includes academic researchers, law enforcement, city and state public health, transportation sector, and other federal agency representation to create and maintain a metrics dashboard, and publish brief, visually appealing quarterly and annual national and state-by-state reports that analyze and
interpret progress in reducing alcohol-impaired driving.
NHTSA, other federal partners, and private funding sources free of conflicts of interest should support training, technical assistance, and demonstration projects in the implementation of effective strategies, including policy changes, for reducing alcohol-impaired driving.
NHTSA should create a federal interagency coordinating committee to develop and oversee an integrated strategy for reducing alcohol-impaired driving, assure collaboration, maintain accountability, and share information among organizations committed to reducing alcohol-impaired driving.
The National Conference of State Legislatures should draft model legislation to provide benchmarks for states that seek to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.