GHSA Releases Report on Combating Threat of High-Risk Impaired Drivers

By December 12, 2019No Comments

Blurry Highway Drunk Driving at Night

This week, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in partnership with released a report, High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat, which emphasizes the need for a comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing the pervasive problem of High-Risk Impaired Drivers (HRIDs). HRIDs are impaired driving offenders who are likely to drive with a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher repeatedly, often due to a combination of drugs and alcohol. These drivers cause about one-third of all impaired driving deaths annually and are resistant to changing behavior despite sanctions, treatment, or education. 

The approach
outlined in this report centers around involving practitioners from many
disciplines collaborating to identify the root cause of an offender’s behavior
and then determining what sanctions should be administered in what is referred
to as individualized justice. This approach may include alcohol/drug
monitoring technologies, transdermal alcohol testing, intensive supervision
that holds the offender accountable, and individualized treatment and aftercare.
Individualized justice is now identified by criminal justice experts as being
more effective at deterring HRIDs than the traditional legislative response of
heavy fines and incarceration. 

A few key takeaways
from this report: 

  • Alcohol-impaired fatalities accounted for 29% of all
    U.S. motor vehicle fatalities in 2018, the lowest percentage since 1982 when
    NHTSA began reporting alcohol data. This equates to 10,511 people losing
    their lives in motor vehicle crashes involving at least
    one driver with a BAC of .08 or higher. 
  • Drugs—both legal (including prescription and
    over-the-counter medications as well as cannabis in some states) and
    illegal—are playing an increasingly more prevalent and dangerous role in motor
    vehicle crashes. Between 2006 and 2016, the rate of fatally injured drivers that
    tested positive for drugs increased from 28% to 44%. 
  • All motorists who drive impaired pose a hazard to
    themselves and others but the greater the level of impairment the higher the
    crash risk. Sixty-six percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018
    had BAC levels at or above .15. These impaired drivers are involved in more
    than 60% of the alcohol-impaired driving deaths each year.
  • Drivers with BACs of .08 or higher, who were
    involved in fatal crashes, were also 4.5 times more likely to have prior
    convictions for DUI than drivers with no alcohol (9% and 2%, respectively).
    These repeat offenders cause about one-third of all impaired driving deaths
    annually, a statistic that has remained relatively unchanged for years. 
  • Local DUI task forces, such as the York
    County Target 25 Program
    , are taking on high-risk impaired drivers with new
    approaches. Target 25 deals with the 25 percent of the county’s docket that are
    repeat offenders (hence the program name) and has reduced the occurrence of
    pretrial recidivism for impaired drivers by more than 90 percent. 
  • Working collaboratively, we can break the dangerous
    and deadly cycle of recidivism and ultimately put an end to impaired driving
    fatalities on our nation’s roadways. Doing so requires moving away from a
    conviction-centered approach to an individualized justice approach that focuses
    on getting to the heart of the HRID’s abuse of alcohol and/or other substances.

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