Statement on New Study from IIHS on Impaired Driving

  • September 20, 2022
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 20, 2022
CONTACT: Allison Kennedy / / 360-281-7033 (C)

Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on New Study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on Impaired Driving

New IIHS research reveals troubling behavior of “polyuse” – mixing alcohol and marijuana – and getting behind the wheel.  

Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a new study showing that among drivers who report drinking alcohol and using marijuana at the same time over the past year, one-third then drove within two hours.  This alarming new information comes only one day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put out new data estimating 20,175 people were killed in the first half of 2022, another historical high death toll.  Alcohol-impairment remains a pervasive problem consistently contributing to approximately 30 percent of crash fatalities.  While a causal link between legalization of marijuana and crashes, fatalities and injuries is still being studied, research has shown that marijuana impairment impacts driving ability.  When drug and alcohol use are combined, known as “polyuse,” impairment can be amplified.

The new report from IIHS underscores the need to advance critical countermeasures to prevent impaired driving.  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges the U.S. Department of Transportation to expeditiously advance a rulemaking directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58) to require advanced impaired driving prevention technology in new vehicles.  This technology could save more than 9,000 lives each year once widely deployed, according to earlier research from IIHS.  Moreover, Advocates recommends improving data collection and analysis to identify a causal link between marijuana use and crash outcomes, identifying and enforcing a consistent standard for marijuana impaired driving, and developing roadside testing technology.  Also critical to address this problem will be standards for lab testing, modernizations of labs and increased capacity, and funding for law enforcement training.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) can help mitigate and prevent impaired driving crashes, among many other crash causes, and should be standard equipment.  The IIJA similarly directed the U.S. DOT to issue a rule on this game-changing technology.  While implementing the IIJA mandate, it is imperative that the rule require the technology to be on all new vehicles – including small and medium duty trucks which were omitted from the new law – and that it detect and respond to all road users including bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users in all lighting conditions.  AEB, coupled with advanced impaired driving prevention technology, are vital to bringing down the upward trajectory of crash deaths experienced in recent years.  We commend IIHS for conducting this study which combined with the latest fatality figures clearly highlights the urgency to ensure these lifesaving systems are available in every new vehicle.

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.