Reducing crashes and fatalities by repeat-offender drivers requires treatment focused on individuals, instead of a boilerplate of arrests, fines, and prison, according to a recent report. The key is to target the underlying problems prompting drunk driving. The benefits are clear: repeat offenders cause about a third of impaired driving deaths in the United States each year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
The GHSA study calling for treatment for impaired drivers — “High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat” — was done by consultants for the GHSA and responsibility.org. The GHSA is a nonprofit in Washington D.C. that consists of members of highway safety officers from the states, U.S. territories, and Indian nations. Responsibility.org is the liquor industry’s drunk driving prevention group.
Why the traditional approach doesn't work
The report, cited in InsuranceJournal.com, said a tailored approach is more effective at deterring high-risk impaired drivers than the typical “cookie-cutter” legislative response of fines and incarceration.
GHSA Chairman Darrin Grondel said the report’s aim is to encourage a more holistic approach to the problem by identifying and treating the cause of the offender’s behavior to determine appropriate sanctions and prevent repeat crashes and worse.
The report comes as the 10,511 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2018 accounted for nearly 29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths. That’s actually a slight drop — of 397 — from the 10,908 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2017. The 2017 stats showed drunk driving at 29.1 percent of that year's 37,473 motor vehicle deaths.
Roads have become safer over the years, but drunk driving remains a major problem. In 2018, an average of one drunk driving fatality occurred every 50 minutes. That is 29 deaths each day, according to the report.
Repeat-offender drivers are “disproportionately responsible for fatalities on our roadways." Therefore, it makes sense to target them with policies and funding for treatment, according to the report.
What does a national survey on traffic safety show?
The report comes as behavior is not matching attitude in many cases. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, published in June 2019, found that over 95 percent of drivers perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous. Nearly 11 percent admitted to having done so in the past 30 days, however.
The report said a high-risk impaired driver is one who lacks the restraint or self-control to resist driving impaired. These drivers also meets one of the following criteria:
- High blood alcohol content
- Has consumed a combination of drugs and alcohol
- Is a repeat offender, with more than one arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol
You're considered legally impaired in the U.S. When your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. In 2018, 66 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC greater than 0.15 percent.
The report urges testing drivers for the presence of not only alcohol but marijuana and other drugs. This would be in addition to screening and assessment.