As Drivers Return to the Roadways, Seven States Receive Grants to Stop High Risk Impaired Driving
GHSA & Responsibility.org to Award $245,000 in Highway Safety Grants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the sixth consecutive year, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) are awarding grants to help states keep Americans safe from the most dangerous impaired drivers.
The new grants will expand the nearly 2,000 officers trained in drug-impaired driving detection through the first five years of the partnership. The 2020 grant awards will fund seven states – Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming – with a total of $210,000 to support enhanced identification and assessment of alcohol and drug impaired drivers. GHSA will also receive $35,000 to educate State Highway Safety Offices and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States about state oral fluid test pilot programs.
Summer is traditionally the deadliest season for impaired driving, and risks are expected to be particularly high this summer as states reopen bars, restaurants and other hospitality establishments that have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With road traffic levels returning to pre-pandemic levels, and the pandemic’s impact on mental health and economic anxiety, experts believe this is a critical time to support efforts to keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel.
“Vehicle miles traveled fell drastically during the pandemic, but that decline didn’t result in improved safety on our nation’s roadways,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Alcohol and drug impaired driving persisted, with prevention experts warning the problem may worsen as people continue to worry about contracting the virus, recover from the economic fall-out and adhere to social distancing requirements. All are triggers for substance use making this grant program even more important.”
The grants will help states implement key recommendations in the GHSA report onHigh Risk Impaired Drivers, funded by Responsibility.org. While every impaired driver is high risk, this report and the Responsibility.org STOP HRID online resource hub take counter-measures to the next level by recommending proven, multidisciplinary approaches to addressing the specific dangers posed by repeat offenders and impaired drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations or a combination of impairing substances.
Impairment may be the result of alcohol, drugs or both, as there has been a 16% increase between 2006 and 2016 in the number of impaired drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for multiple substances, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The GHSA report calls on states to prevent repeat offenders and reduce the number of fatalities by taking an individualized justice approach to the problem. This is a multidisciplinary effort to identify the root cause of an offender’s behavior, determine the appropriate sanctions and prevent recidivism. Highlights of the programs to be funded with STOP HRID grants include:
Training law enforcement officers in advanced drug-impaired driving recognition.Pennsylvania’s grant will enable eight urban law enforcement agencies to each train two officers as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), while Maryland plans to conduct two DRE training courses as well as expand the number of officers that will be trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE). With the uptick in the use of multiple impairing substances, it is imperative that drug use is captured at the time of arrest. These training programs are currently the best line of defense in a highway safety environment without scientifically validated legal intoxication limits for marijuana and other drugs.
Training law enforcement officials on forensic phlebotomy and bolstering toxicology programs. Illinois’ grant will enable eight law enforcement officials to receive forensic phlebotomy training. This reduces the amount of time an officer is off the street processing an impaired driver and the costs because law enforcement agencies do not need to pay phlebotomists or hospital fees for blood draws. It also simplifies the evidentiary chain of custody since fewer people are handling the blood sample. Maryland and Wyoming will use grant funds to benchmark toxicology best practices and improve toxicology training. Testing for impairing drugs is critical for uncovering motorists’ substance use problems, which is central to the individualized justice approach. Failure to test undermines impaired driving prevention. Wyoming’s goal is to develop an accredited toxicology unit that can provide confirmatory analysis necessary for court cases.
Analyzing impacts of oral fluid testing and advancing programs to support effective evidence collection using oral fluid testing.GHSA will educate State Highway Safety Offices and law enforcement agencies about oral fluid test programs. Unlike blood draws, oral fluid tests are a quick, minimally invasive and painless way to collect a sample close to the time the driver was operating a vehicle. They are a more reliable indicator of the presence of drugs at the time of the stop and comparable to preliminary breath tests. However, they cannot conclusively determine the level of impairment but can be used to collect evidence as part of a broader impaired driving investigation. The only way to determine impairment is through officer observations and field sobriety tests which underscore the importance of this grant program.
Ensuring law enforcement officers have the skills and tools necessary to safely stop trucks and other large vehicles. Washington State plans to establish a commercial motor vehicle driving under the influence training pilot for law enforcement officials. Washington is one of many states that have adoptedthe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations for commercial drivers and alcohol, which set a 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit. This is half the BAC limit for non-commercial drivers in all states except Utah (which has a .05 BAC).
Screening and assessing impaired drivers to provide effective community supervision and reduce risk of repeat offenses. Minnesota will use its grant to evaluate the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) process conducted by the St. Louis County DWI Court, with a goal of expanding SBIRT to other DWI courts across the state. SBIRT is an evidence-based approach to identifying individuals who use alcohol and other drugs at risky levels.
Implementing innovative partnerships to combat impaired driving. Missouri will use its grant to explore new ways to address impaired driving through a partnership with the Missouri Safety Center, that will include examining new and successful programs employed by other states.
“Last year over 10,000 people in the United States died in preventable impaired driving crashes. It is an honor to support innovative state efforts to address alcohol, drug and multi-substance impaired driving and remove high-risk impaired drivers from the roadways,” said Dr. Darrin T. Grondel, Responsibility.org’s Vice President of Traffic Safety and Government Relations.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.
About the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a national not-for-profit that leads the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Beam Suntory, Inc.; Brown-Forman; Constellation Brands, Inc.; DIAGEO; Edrington; Mast-Jägermeister US; Moët Hennessy USA; and Pernod Ricard USA. Recognizing 29 years of impact, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families and communities together to guide a lifetime of conversations around alcohol responsibility and offers proven strategies to stop impaired driving. To learn more, visit www.responsibility.org.