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States Focus on Impaired Driving Leading into Labor Day Weekend to Prevent Traffic Deaths

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 Amid a rise in drunk and drugged driving during the pandemic, State Highway Safety Offices are working to keep deadly drivers off the road

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As summer winds down and millions of Americans take to the roads for the Labor Day weekend, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is reminding motorists that State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and their federal and law enforcement partners are stepping up efforts to reduce drunk and drug-impaired driving, a preventable behavior that puts all road users at risk.

The Labor Day holiday is an especially deadly time for impaired driving, and the risks are even greater than normal this year as traffic volumes increase. More than 10,000 people die each year in crashes involving drunk drivers, and the impacts on younger people are even more pronounced. During the 2019 Labor Day holiday, nearly half (46%) of the drivers aged 18-34 killed in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or higher. While the impaired driving problem is not new, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released highly concerning evidence pointing to increases in drunk, drugged and multi-substance driving during the pandemic.

To address this persistent and growing highway safety problem, SHSOs and their partners are participating in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” outreach and enforcement campaign. Enforcement of traffic safety laws is a proven countermeasure for changing driver behavior, and GHSA and the SHSOs are working with their partners to ensure it is conducted equitably and in combination with community engagement that increases public awareness of life-saving traffic safety laws. GHSA recently released ten recommendations developed by Kimley-Horn to support more equitable safety outcomes for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). 

“Labor Day weekend is a great time to get together and celebrate the unofficial end of summer,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “As we’ve done throughout the pandemic, Americans need to keep safety top of mind when behind the wheel. Every single death and injury in an impaired driving crash is preventable. Enjoy the waning days of summer – but do it safely.” 

States and their partners are employing a wide range of approaches to combat alcohol and drug-impaired driving, including but not limited to:

·    The Washington Traffic Safety Commission will support enforcement with a TV, radio, digital and social media campaign encouraging residents to talk to friends and loved ones about getting a ride after using marijuana and how everyone has a shared responsibility to keep roads safe by not driving after consuming alcohol.

 ·    The Wisconsin Bureau of Traffic Safety is supplementing enforcement with a focus on motorcycle rider outreach through the “Dare Devils, Dare Not” campaign and promoting rider education in collaboration with ABATE of Wisconsin. The state is also utilizing a grant from GHSA and to increase the number of Drug Recognition Experts that are trained to identify drug-impaired drivers in counties bordering states with legal marijuana.

 ·    The Maryland Highway Safety Office is reminding motorists to ensure a sober ride home if they plan on drinking alcohol over the Labor Day weekend. These efforts will be coupled with enforcement focused on impaired driving, distracted driving and seat belt use.

 With younger drivers more likely to drive impaired, SHSOs are focusing on reaching the age groups most prone to getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and/or drugs: 

 ·    The Texas Department of Transportation is working with law enforcement partners to identify and stop suspected impaired drivers in the weeks leading up to Labor Day. After the holiday weekend, TxDOT will focus its “Drive Sober. No Regrets.” campaign on 18- to 34-year-old males attending end-of-summer parties and college students returning to campus.

 ·    In Mississippi, the Highway Safety Office is delivering safe driving messages to college students at three different campuses throughout the Labor Day weekend, a popular time for alcohol consumption as students gather and reconnect after summer.

 ·    The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is focusing on the 25 counties with the most impaired driving fatalities through enforcement and a comprehensive public awareness campaign directed to 21- to 34-year-old males. The OHSP is also reminding drivers that while recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan, it is illegal to drive high.

 SHSOs are also reminding drivers there are convenient alternatives to getting behind the wheel impaired:

 ·    The Sober Ride Indiana program, funded by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (that state’s SHSO), is offering $15 ride-hail credits to give potential drunk and drug-impaired drivers a safe way home. The program has funded more than 4,000 rides since it launched last December.

 ·    The Las Vegas Coalition for Zero Fatalities, led by the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, is providing ride-hailing credits over the Labor Day weekend and promoting it as an alternative to drunk driving through partnerships with local bars.

 ·    Entering festival season, the Wisconsin Bureau of Traffic Safety’s “Safe Ride” program partners with taverns, bars and other venues to provide buses in communities during events, so people do not have to worry about driving home impaired.

 ·    In North Dakota, drivers can receive ride-hail vouchers through the Department of Transportation-led “ND Sober Ride” program to avoid getting behind the wheel after consuming an impairing substance.

 Late last month, GHSA partnered with and AAA to create the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving, where leading experts and key officials gathered at the inaugural conference to address multiple-substance impaired driving and create a national action plan to combat it. Impaired driving solutions will also be discussed at the GHSA 2021 Annual Meeting this September in Denver.


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