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Highway Special Investigation Report - Wrong-Way Driving, Washington, DC - Chairman's Closing Remarks
Deborah A.P. Hersman
Highway Special Investigation Report - Wrong-Way Driving, Washington, DC - Chairman's Closing Remarks

In closing, I want to recognize the NTSB staff for their hard work in bringing this special investigation report to the Board, in particular, the staff from the Office of Highway Safety and from the Office of Research and Engineering. The report team, under the leadership of Dr. Deb Bruce did an outstanding job.

The findings we heard about this morning are dramatic. We know that motor vehicles can be lethal; and today saw photos showing graphically and poignantly just how deadly they can be.

A good way to address this tragic loss of life is to better understand the circumstances, the challenges and make reasoned recommendations to address them, as our staff so ably demonstrated today.

We have heard a lot this morning about drivers, the driving environment, and about how to make improvements. Some of the improvements, including improving signage and highway design, as well as incorporating wrong-way alerts into GPS navigation systems, will especially help older drivers. At the same time, these improvements will help all drivers.

A rising tide does lift all boats.

But, perhaps the biggest message from this special investigation on wrong-way drivers is about technology and using it to address impaired driving.

The first step to address this top killer on our roadways is to do what is proven effective - use alcohol ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders. Ignition interlocks, which prevent impaired drivers from starting their vehicles, and continuing to drive, are mandated by 17 states for all DWI offenders - both for first and repeat offenders. It's time for the other 33 states to step up for safety and require ignition interlocks for all offenders.

Yet, that step, while sensible and necessary, doesn't address the underlying problem - preventing impaired driving. Ignition interlocks are like medical treatments for cancer patients. You get the treatment after the diagnosis.

As any cancer patient would agree, it's far better to prevent the disease in the first place.

This is where a new in-vehicle alcohol-detection system, which can prevent drivers above the legal limit from operating their vehicles, comes in. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety or DADSS technology, which can be touch-based or breath-based, can literally be a lifesaver. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the new DADSS technology has the potential to save more than 7,000 lives a year.

Yes, technology - especially the new in-vehicle alcohol-detection systems - can make a dramatic difference in highway safety.

But, technology is only one side of the equation. Americans must embrace the technological solutions if we are ever to address reducing alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

I look forward to the day when alcohol-detection systems are available on every vehicle, when far fewer people are killed at the hands of alcohol-impaired drivers and when highway fatalities are not our nation's fourth-leading cause of death.

Yes, that will be the day when "automobility" is synonymous with safety.

That safer future is what we're working toward. I thank all the transportation safety advocates across the country - and all the NTSB employees - for your focus, commitment and the important work you do to save lives.

We stand adjourned.