December 4, 2003

NHTSA unveils strategy to reduce impaired driving

Washington, D.C. – Citing the lack of substantial improvement in the number of alcohol-related fatalities since the mid-1990s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a high priority comprehensive departmental plan to significantly reduce impaired driving on the nation’s roads in the coming years. The report proposes a multi-disciplinary approach to address the complexities of the legal, social health and safety infrastructures involved in control of the impaired driving problem.

The National Institutes for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimate the total cost of alcohol impairments, including medical consequences, crime, and accidental injury to be U.S.$184.6 billion annually. The costs of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities account for 8.5 percent of this total.

The report also suggests generating vehicle-based solutions and improving the roadway environment. It identifies six critical countermeasures, all related to law enforcement and prosecution of DWI offenses, including specialized courts and strong alcoholic beverage control policy for minors. It offers five critical infrastructure initiatives for states to make their impaired driver control system more effective.

Key among the countermeasures cited in the report to address impaired driving is high visibility traffic enforcement, enhanced support for DWI prosecution and adjudication, and medical screening of high-risk populations for alcohol use problems. These three priorities will be the department’s focus on impaired driving prevention in the immediate future.

“We already know what works to stop impaired driving,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. “These strategies will save lives today, if we work together to implement them in every community.”

The report concludes, “NHTSA will continue to explore ways to achieve effective collaborative efforts with those who have the biggest stake in this issue – the citizens of this nation that absorb the cost of this problem in medical costs, lost productivity and human suffering from the loss of loved ones – the victims of impaired driving.”

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