FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, December 18, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), On National Impaired Driving Prevention Month
While the winter holidays certainly will be different this year because of COVID-19, an unfortunate constant is a predictable increase in preventable motor vehicle crashes. This National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) is calling for swift action to advance proven technological and legislative solutions.
Early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first half of 2020 found that the motor vehicle crash fatality rate is up significantly, due in part to increases in impaired driving and speeding coupled with decreases in seat belt use. These disturbing trends should serve as a glaring “red warning light” to all road users, especially as we head into the holidays and winter storm weather.
The good news is that advances in auto safety technology can significantly decrease crashes, fatalities and injuries, including those caused by impaired driving. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection (BSD) and lane departure warning (LDW), are proven to reduce and mitigate the severity of crashes. Similarly, technology that monitors driver behavior behind the wheel or passively detects the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system has shown great promise. A study released earlier this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that impairment detection systems could save upwards of 9,000 lives each year. Regrettably, these technologies are not required as standard equipment on all vehicles. Nor are they subject to minimum performance standards to ensure they work as the driver expects and needs. However, earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) which includes requirements and minimum performance standards for ADAS and advanced drunk driving prevention technology. We urge Congress and the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize these game-changing provisions in the new year.
State elected officials can do their part to reduce impaired driving as well by enacting optimal laws to require ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenders, to prohibit open containers of alcohol and marijuana products in the passenger compartment of the vehicle and to protect child passengers with child endangerment measures. Currently, 29 critical impaired driving laws are needed in 27 states, according to Advocates’ Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws. This annual report rates each state on the enactment of 16 lifesaving laws with the goal of spurring action to close dangerous gaps and loopholes. We encourage you to join us for the release of the 2021 report on Monday, January 11th at 11:00 am EST. For more information, please visit www.saferoads.org.
Lastly, in the waning days of the 116th Congress, we want to thank retiring members of Congress Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) for their indefatigable leadership and dogged commitment to reduce impaired driving. Their legacies include countless lives saved and families kept whole because they prioritized this safety issue throughout their careers.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.