The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is teaming up with federal, state, and private-sector partners over the holidays to encourage people who consume alcohol or other impairing substances to leave the driving to someone who is sober.
The data shows that far too many crashes are due to impaired driving. Some 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, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) new study of trauma center data.
Even more troubling, in 18% of serious injury cases and 32% of the fatalities, two or more drugs were found to be in the drivers’ systems.
The uptick in multi-substance impaired driving is a disturbing phenomenon to safety advocates. To combat the problem, GHSA has partnered with Lyft and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) to offer grants to State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) to support alternative transportation options for alcohol- and drug-impaired revelers.
In fact, 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. In recent years, the program has focused on high-risk impaired drivers with a particular emphasis on polysubstance use.
Several states are presently using the grant funds to improve roadway safety. For example, the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration 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.
In Georgia, local and state law enforcement officers are being trained as phlebotomists so that they can draw blood from drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Doing so at the scene — on the side of the roadway — reduces the time between arrest and the collection of chemical evidence.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission conducted a pilot project for judges to administer screening to drivers convicted of misdemeanor DWI through the Computerized Assessment Referral System, which identifies substance abuse and other mental health issues and treatment options. And in Wisconsin, grant funding was used to provide Drug Recognition Expert training to increase the number of officers across the state with the expertise to recognize drivers under the influence of drugs.
Impaired driving remains a top concern on our nation’s roadways. In 2020 alone, 11,654 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired collisions — that’s about 32 people a day. Moreover, research shows that even more people die daily in traffic crashes over the holiday season.