States Take Action to Curb Drunk and Drugged Driving as New Federal Data Underscores Urgency of the Problem

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News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2022

Contact: Adrian Nicholas, 202-580-7934; 607-222-9868 (after hours)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As holiday season celebrations kick into high gear, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is joining forces with federal, state and private-sector partners to encourage people who consume alcohol or other impairing substances to make the safer choice and leave the driving to someone who is sober. The initiative is critical as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced earlier today the findings of a new study of trauma center data that examined the pervasiveness of alcohol and drug use in serious and fatal crashes involving drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to the new NHTSA study, 56% of seriously or fatally injured road users tested positive for alcohol or some type of impairing substance, with cannabis (25%) being the most prevalent. In addition, two or more drugs were found in 18% of serious injury cases and 32% of the fatalities. To combat this pervasive problem NHTSA highlighted the coordinated efforts taking place nationwide to combat alcohol- and drug-impaired driving during this holiday season. As part of those efforts, GHSA has partnered with Lyft and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) to provide grants to State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) to support alternative transportation options for alcohol- and drug-impaired revelers.

“The uptick in multi-substance impaired driving is not only troubling, but also frustrating because it is preventable,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “That’s why GHSA remains committed to working with our state and organizational partners to support initiatives that prevent alcohol- and drug-impaired driving.”

For the past eight years, GHSA and Responsibility.org have funded state impaired driving grant programs for proven and innovative countermeasures to enhance the identification and treatment of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. Over the past few years, the program has focused on high-risk impaired drivers with a particular emphasis on polysubstance use. Here are a few examples of how grant funds are being used:

  • The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) conducts “green labs” that allow law enforcement officers to witness first-hand the impairing effects of cannabis and alcohol impairment to better detect impaired drivers. Earlier this month MDOT MVA held a successful green lab with the Chesapeake Region Safety Council.
  • The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is training state and local law enforcement officers as phlebotomists to allow them to draw blood from drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. This reduces the time between arrest and the collection of chemical evidence.
  • • The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) conducted a pilot project for judges to administer screening to drivers convicted of misdemeanor DWI through the Computerized Assessment Referral System (CARS), which identifies substance abuse and other mental health issues and treatment options.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) provided Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training to increase the number of officers across the state with the expertise to recognize drivers under the influence of drugs and remove them from the road. DREs apply a standardized 12-step protocol that uses a combination of physical, behavioral and toxicology evidence to evaluate an impaired driving suspect.

Also, to address drugged driving, GHSA state member the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute developed a statewide program to make oral fluid testing available to law enforcement agencies in the state to ensure that officers test not only for alcohol but also other impairing substances. GHSA’s SHSO members also provide grant funding to their law enforcement partners to address alcohol and drug impairment during NHTSA’s national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” mobilizations and throughout the year.

GHSA has published reports addressing the issue of drunk- and drug-impaired driving. In July, GHSA joined with Responsibility.org and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving (NASID) to issue the report, Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving: Responsible Use Messaging, to help the SHSOs address legalization and the uptick in fatalities involving drivers impaired by cannabis and other substances. GHSA is a founding member of NASID, with Executive Director Jonathan Adkins serving as the organization’s chair. GHSA also issued, High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat, with the support of Responsibility.org, that addresses multi-substance use and identifies proven and promising countermeasures for addressing this population that accounts for a significant portion of impaired driving fatalities.

For more information on these and other GHSA and SHSO initiatives, visit the alcohol- and drug-impaired driving issue pages on the GHSA website.

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About GHSA

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.

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