NPAMC Blog

Friday, March 10, 2017

CEO Message (March 2017)

David Wallace, National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime

There’s More To Do

By David Wallace, CEO, NPAMC

Alcohol plays a role in a significant percentage of crime in the United States and that is no more obvious than with the crime of Impaired Driving. Impaired driving was a crime that we have supposedly solved and stopped from happening, after all, there’s nothing more that can be done right? Wrong!

Since the 1980’s we have come a long way and saved tens of thousands of lives with the changes that have occurred: societal, legal, enforcement, prosecution and adjudication. All those changes have made an impact. However, thousand of people are still dying because of impaired driving. In 2013 there were 10,084 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. That number went below 10,000 in 2014 to 9,943. However, in 2015 the number increased to 10,265. That accounts for 28 people needlessly dying every day in 2015, and there are concerns that 2016 will be even worse in the number of fatalities from impaired driving. We are not even close to ending this preventable crime.

A Technological Solution?

One technological tool being developed that could end alcohol-DUI is “DADSS” (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety). [See article in this newsletter edition discussing DADSS and Automated Vehicles.] However, that is still many years away before full implementation. In the meantime, there are other steps that we can take now that will make a difference.

We know where the greatest risks are for drivers who could be in an impaired crash, riders of motorcycles (27% of fatalities) and drivers of cars between the ages of 21-24 (28%) with drivers between the ages of 25-34 a close second at 27%. Yet, this is a crime that impacts the young and the old, all races and all socioeconomic levels.

A Comprehensive Approach

Some efforts such as Drug Courts, DWI Courts, and Ignition Interlocks have research showing a proven track record. Other programs such as HOPE (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) and 24-7 are showing promise from initial research and should be supported and further examined. Actively enforcing the current .08 laws, and the minimum legal drinking age laws and zero tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21 will make a difference. Also requiring a substance abuse assessment and treatment when needed on DUI offenders can help address the underlying issues and reduce the incidents of repeat DUI offenders.

It is clear that there is no silver bullet that will end impaired driving. It is a complicated problem and it will require a comprehensive approach addressing all of the factors. But together we can make a difference, implementing proven responses and save even more lives on our roads and highways.