FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2022
CONTACT: Adam Snider (GHSA), 202-580-7930, 202-365-8971 (after hours)
GHSA and Responsibility.org provide a total of $130,000 to Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Nevada to combat this growing safety problem
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and Responsibility.org have awarded grants to five states to fund proven and innovative countermeasures to enhance the identification and treatment of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers, making America’s streets and highways safer for everyone using them. Now in its eighth year, the GHSA and Responsibility.org grant program has provided nearly $1 million to states to address alcohol- and drug-impaired driving.
These traffic safety grants couldn’t be timelier. Summer is traditionally a deadly season for impaired driving, and the risks are even higher this year as more drivers return to the road for summer vacations and work-related travel. Alarmingly, police-reported alcohol-involved crashes have risen during the last two years, eclipsing the pre-pandemic level. Police-reported, alcohol-involved crashes rose 16% from 2019 to 2020 and increased another 5% from 2020 to 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
At the same time, drug- and multiple substance-impaired driving continues to increase. But many of these drivers often go unreported as police may not have the training to recognize drug impairment and some toxicology labs lack the equipment necessary to test for certain drugs. Giving law enforcement the tools to identify alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers and expanded testing are critical for protecting all roadway users.
“Alcohol and drug use increased during the pandemic as people looked for ways to cope, and we know that many of these individuals are also getting behind the wheel. It’s tragic and incredibly frustrating to see impaired driving crashes – which are preventable – kill people every day,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “We’re proud to continue our longstanding partnership with Responsibility.org to fund countermeasures to advance law enforcement detection, expand critical toxicology lab capabilities, and support the screening, assessment and treatment of impaired drivers.”
The 2022 grants will enable five states – Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Nevada – to bolster their ability to deter and detect impaired drivers. The specific programs that will be funded with these grants include:
- The creation of “green labs,” which involve giving volunteers a controlled dose of cannabis (and in some cases a combination of cannabis and alcohol), in Maryland and Connecticut. Law enforcement officers will perform a series of sobriety tests with the volunteers to witness the impairing effects of these substances. This training will equip officers to better detect cannabis at the roadside, resulting in more impaired and dangerous drivers being removed from roadways before they hurt or kill themselves or others. Public outreach informing drivers of officers’ ability to detect varying forms of drug-impaired driving will help maximize the positive impact of this initiative.
- A first-of-its-kind on-call toxicology program that can be a model for other states. Louisiana will hire a forensic toxicologist who can provide expert analysis and court testimony on drug-impaired driving cases in areas of the state that currently have limited access or funding challenges. Drug-impaired driving cases are far more complex and challenging than alcohol-impaired driving cases, and without the appropriate toxicology support, many cases are pled down or dismissed, putting dangerous drivers back on the road rather than in treatment and monitoring programs.
- Equipment to expand the range of impairing drugs tested by toxicology labs in Illinois and Louisiana. Illinois will expand its ability to test drivers arrested for impairment by synthetic opioids, which are becoming more widespread across the state. Louisiana will purchase equipment that will allow their lab to test every impaired driving blood sample submitted for analysis for a wider array of drugs, including inhalants.
- Training case managers to screen and assess impaired driving offenders and judges to use the findings to make better sentencing decisions. Nevada will provide training to judges and case managers to use the groundbreaking Computerized Assessment Referral System (CARS). The tool can identify substance use disorders and an array of mental health issues, leading to personalized treatment recommendations and more individualized sentencing decisions for defendants, reducing their chances of reoffending.
All of these projects complement recommendations in the 2019 GHSA report on High-Risk Impaired Drivers (HRID), funded by Responsibility.org, which calls for an individualized approach to impaired driving and ultimately led to the creation of the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving (NASID), a coalition established and led by Responsibility.org to eliminate all forms of impaired driving. An individualized approach to impaired driving includes identifying all the impairing substances the offender is using and the root cause of the offender’s behavior, along with determining and administering the appropriate treatment and sanctions, and monitoring and holding the offender accountable so they are less likely to drive impaired in the future.
“Despite the higher risks associated with multiple substance-impaired driving, it is an underreported problem, and leading experts and officials want and need more information, data, education and training to recognize, treat and prevent it,” said Darrin Grondel, Vice President of Government Relations and Traffic Safety for Responsibility.org and Director of NASID. “Those mission-critical tools cost money that local law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners just simply do not have, which is why we are proud of this years-long collaboration with GHSA to help provide the necessary funding that will ultimately save someone’s life – possibly someone you know.”
For more information on the grants and previous state program results, visit the GHSA website.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Responsibility.org is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and work with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empower adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. Responsibility.org is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi USA, Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; Campari Group; Constellation Brands; DIAGEO; Edrington, Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; Ole Smoky, LLC; Pernod Ricard USA; and William Grant & Sons. For over 30 years, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit Responsibility.org.