The states of Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Wisconsin have received a total of $157,165 in grants from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) for initiatives that support keeping all road users safe from alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers.
Specifically, the 2021 GHSA-Responsibility.org funding will be used by the four states to support enhanced identification and assessment of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. For example, the grants will go toward drug-impaired driving detection training, tools to better identify treatment needs for offenders, and efforts to improve toxicology reporting for suspected instances of impaired driving.
Through the first six years of the grant program, about 2,300 officers across the country have received training to better identify drug-impaired drivers.
The goal of the grant program is to eliminate high-risk impaired driving, which killed more than 10,000 people in 2019 alone. Moreover, recent studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute show that crash rates spiked in five states following the legalization and retail sale of marijuana, demonstrating the urgent need to combat drugged driving.
The four states that received the grants have developed specific programs designed to prevent recidivism and reduce the number of impaired driving fatalities.
Georgia’s grant will enable 96 law enforcement officers to receive phlebotomy training to better detect drug-, alcohol- or polysubstance-impaired drivers. This will reduce the number of driving under the influence cases that go to trial with no toxicology reports and allow blood draws in a safe and timely fashion, giving officers a more accurate account of the drugs or alcohol in a driver’s system.
Louisiana will create a pilot project to administer screening to motorists convicted of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated through the Computerized Assessment Referral System (CARS). Judges will them use these assessments to identify a defendant’s treatments needs and make more individualized sentencing decisions, reducing the chances of recidivism.
Maryland’s funding will train law enforcement officers on how to observe, identify and articulate the signs of drug impairment in drivers through a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course and three Cannabis Intoxication Impaired Driving Labs. Additional grant funding will allow the State Toxicology Unit to process additional blood results for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving cases.
Wisconsin’s grant will fund law enforcement training to identify drug-impaired drivers. The state has a drug recognition expert (DRE) in 50 of 72 counties, but many of those are underserved with only one or two in each county. As instances of drugged driving in Wisconsin rise, the grant will enable the state to have a DRE in every county and reduce the number of drugged driving cases that are dismissed or pled down.