NAS Report: Missed Opportunity To Address Impaired Driving

Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz today issued the following statement in response to the National Academy of Sciences Report on Alcohol-Impaired Driving:

“As leaders in the fight against drunk driving, we share the goal of improved traffic safety, including zero alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, and support a number of the recommendations contained in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report.

“Unfortunately, this report also contains several stale recommendations and represents a missed opportunity to address traffic safety in a more comprehensive manner.  Most notably, it ignores the rapidly rising problems of drugged and distracted driving.

“According to NHTSA, drunk driving fatalities have fallen by a third in the last three decades. The most recent government data show that alcohol-impaired driving as a percent of overall traffic fatalities is at the lowest percentage since NHTSA began releasing alcohol data in 1982.

“At the same time, many states are grappling with recreational marijuana and the opioid abuse epidemic. NHTSA’s most recent Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers reports that nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety. As such, it’s unfortunate the NAS report failed to address the serious issue of increased drugged driving on our nation’s roadways.

“The Council supports the enforcement of existing laws to stop illegal alcohol sales; funding for the development of Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS); implementation of DWI Courts; and increased screening and brief interventions by health professionals, as referenced in the NAS report.

“The Council does not support the report’s one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions, including advertising bans and tax increases, which will have little or no impact on traffic safety.  These recommendations fail to address the problem of alcohol abuse, would divert resources from more targeted approaches to reduce drunk driving, and would unfairly and negatively impact moderate and responsible consumers.

“The Council, along with other organizations focused on traffic safety such as MADD, strongly supports the strict enforcement of the .08 BAC level. Reducing the BAC limit to .05 will do nothing to deter the behavior of repeat and high BAC drivers who represent the vast majority of drunk driving fatalities on the nation’s roads.”

Acting NHTSA Administrator Announces New Drugged Driving Initiative

The Council commends Acting NHTSA Administrator Heidi King for her plans to unveil a new initiative on drugged driving, which she characterized as a new policy priority for the agency.

According to an article in POLITICO, King stated at the Detroit Auto Show, “We need to consider both drugs and alcohol to solve the problem of impaired driving.” She indicated that by sharing best practices and advancing the science and the data around drugged driving, “we can solve this problem for our communities in the future.”  King pointed out that driving under the influence of drugs is less understood than drunk driving, and called for a summit to bring researchers together with law enforcement and others to try to find policy solutions for drugged driving.

Naasz said, “Contrast King’s forward-thinking view with that of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report. We agree with Administrator King that any successful initiative on impaired driving must be comprehensive and we commend her for taking the lead on this complex issue.

“Our sector is proud of the significant progress that has been made in reducing drunk driving and the role we have all played in bringing about this positive trend. More work remains, and we stand ready to work with those who support proven strategies to combat impaired driving of all kinds.”