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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long been concerned about alcohol-impaired driving, which accounts for approximately one-third of all US highway fatalities. Between 1982 and 1994, the percentage of fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than or equal to 0.08 decreased from 49 to 33 percent. However, since that time, there has been no further decline in the percentage, and efforts are needed to address this lack of progress. The NTSB has issued more than 120 safety recommendations on impaired driving since 1968, and “Addressing Alcohol-Impaired Driving” is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that alcohol-impaired driving in the United States continues to kill over 10,000 people yearly and to injure many more despite numerous federal, state, and local efforts. The NTSB is also concerned about the growing problem of drug use by drivers. According to NHTSA, from 2005 to 2009, the proportion of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs (illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter) rose from 13 to 18 percent. According to NHTSA’s 2007 National Roadside Survey, 16.3 percent of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs. The growing prevalence of drugged driving has also captured the attention of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which cites the following principle in its 2011 National Drug Control Strategy: “Preventing drugged driving must become a national priority on par with preventing drunk driving.” In May 2012, the NTSB held a forum to identify the most effective, scientifically based actions needed to “reach zero” accidents resulting from substance-impaired driving. Numerous impaired driving countermeasures were discussed at the forum, including laws, enforcement strategies, adjudication programs, substance treatment programs, ignition interlocks, passive alcohol detection systems, and educational campaigns. Presenters discussed the merits and drawbacks of various countermeasures, as well as the challenges to reducing impaired driving. Reductions in accidents and injuries attributable to impaired driving are the ultimate measures of success. However, inadequate data collection and reporting in many states continue to limit our ability to understand and address the problem of impaired driving and to measure the effectiveness of countermeasures.
TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Develop and disseminate to the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia blood alcohol concentration testing and reporting guidelines based on the 2012 report State Blood Alcohol Concentration Testing and Reporting for Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes: Current Practices, Results, and Strategies, 1997–2009.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open - Unacceptable Response
Washington, DC, United States
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
NHTSA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Safety Recommendation History
We are disappointed that we have not received an update from you regarding your progress in developing and disseminating BAC testing and reporting guidelines. Please send us an update outlining your planned actions and a timeline for addressing this recommendation. Pending such information, Safety Recommendation H-12-32 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
From the safety report Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol Impaired Driving (NTSB/SR-13/01, adopted May 13, 2013, notation 8482): Since the 2012 forum, the NTSB has taken additional steps to address the problem of impaired driving. In November 2012, the NTSB identified eliminating substance-impaired driving as one of 10 transportation safety areas on its Most Wanted List. By expanding the safety area from alcohol-impaired driving to substance-impaired driving, the NTSB recognized the need to address the growing problem of drug-impaired driving, of which alcohol-impaired driving is a substantial component. Although this report is focused on reducing alcohol-impaired driving, the NTSB has made numerous recommendations to address drug-impaired driving, and it continues to seek means of addressing this problem. Also in November 2012, as one outcome of the May 2012 forum, the NTSB made six recommendations calling for improvements to BAC testing and reporting in crashes, common standards for postcrash drug tests, and better tracking of place of last drink (POLD) data (NTSB 2012a, standalone recommendation letter). These recommendations recognize the criticality of obtaining robust data to determine the scope of safety issues, track changes over time, and assess the effectiveness of countermeasures. Specifically, the NTSB recommended that NHTSA take the following actions: H-12-32 Develop and disseminate to the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing and reporting guidelines based on the 2012 report State Blood Alcohol Concentration Testing and Reporting for Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes: Current Practices, Results, and Strategies, 1997–2009. H-12-33 Develop and disseminate to appropriate state officials a common standard of practice for drug toxicology testing, including (1) the circumstances under which tests should be conducted, (2) a minimum set of drugs for which to test, and (3) cutoff values for reporting the results. The NTSB also made the following recommendations to the 45 states that have low reporting rates for BAC testing,18 the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia: H-12-34 Increase your collection, documentation, and reporting of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results by taking the following actions, as needed, to improve testing and reporting rates: (1) enact legislation, (2) issue regulations, and (3) improve procedures used by law enforcement agencies or testing facilities. H-12-35 Once the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing and reporting guidelines recommended in Safety Recommendation H-12-32, incorporate the guidelines into a statewide action plan to achieve BAC reporting rates of at least 80 percent of fatally injured drivers and at least 60 percent of surviving drivers involved in fatal crashes. To the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, the NTSB recommended the following action: H-12-36 Require law enforcement agencies to collect place of last drink (POLD) data as part of any arrest or accident investigation involving an alcohol-impaired driver. To the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association, the NTSB recommended the following action: H-12-37 Inform your members of the value of collecting place of last drink (POLD) data as part of any arrest or accident investigation involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Safety Recommendations H-12-32 and -33 are in “Open—Acceptable Response” status, and Safety Recommendations H-12-34 through -36 are in “Open—Await Response” status. Safety Recommendation H-12-37 is in “Open—Acceptable Response” status to the International Association of Chiefs of Police and in “Open—Await Response” status to the National Sheriffs’ Association. Because the NTSB continues to consider that improvements to BAC testing and reporting following accidents, common standards for postaccident drug tests, and better tracking of POLD data are necessary, it reiterates Safety Recommendations H-12-32 through -37. In December 2012, the NTSB held a Board Meeting on wrong-way driving collisions, during which the Board called on NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, Inc., (ACTS)19 to accelerate implementation of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). DADSS refers to passive vehicle-based systems that would identify driver alcohol use by touch or by measuring a driver’s exhaled breath; they then would prevent vehicle operation by drivers above the legal limit (NTSB 2012c, wrong-way report). Specifically, the NTSB recommended that NHTSA take the following action: H-12-43 Work with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, Inc., to accelerate widespread implementation of Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) technology by (1) defining usability testing that will guide driver interface design and (2) implementing a communication program that will direct driver education and promote public acceptance. The NTSB also recommended that the 33 states that do not mandate the use of interlocks for all DWI offenders, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia take the following action: H-12-45 Enact laws to require the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices for all individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. Chapter 5 discusses these recommendations concerning technologies that prevent a person from driving a vehicle while impaired.
We are encouraged that NHTSA plans to redistribute the BAC testing and reporting guidelines for fatal accidents from the 2012 report. Pending notification that the planned distribution is complete, Safety Recommendation H-12-32 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From David L. Strickland, Administrator: NHTSA agrees with the recommendation and will re-distribute the testing and reporting guidelines for fatal crashes that were developed as part of our report "State Blood Alcohol Concentration Testing and Reporting for Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes: Current Practices, Results, and Strategies, 199 7- 2009" to the designated governmental entities. We agree that further use of these guidelines by States is likely to improve blood alcohol concentration reporting and enhance the value of these data in our Fatality Analysis Reporting System database. We appreciate the NTSB's support of these efforts. At this time, we request this recommendation be classified as Open-Acceptable Action.
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