As Traffic Comes Roaring Back, Four States Receive Grants to Stop Drug and High-Risk Impaired Driving

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2021

CONTACT: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930
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GHSA and Responsibility.org to award more than $157,000 in highway safety grants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the seventh consecutive year, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) are awarding grants to help states keep Americans safe from alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. Earlier today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute released new studies that found that crash rates spiked in five states following the legalization and retail sale of marijuana, demonstrating the urgent need to combat drugged driving on our roads.

The 2021 GHSA-Responsibility.org grant awards will provide four states – Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Wisconsin – with a total of $157,165 to support enhanced identification and assessment of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers. These new grants will provide for law enforcement drug-impaired driving detection training, tools to better identify treatment needs for offenders and efforts to improve toxicology reporting for suspected instances of impaired driving. Through the first six years of the grant program, approximately 2,300 officers across the country have received training to better identify drug-impaired drivers.

Summer is traditionally a deadly season for impaired driving, and the risks are heightened this year as bars, restaurants and entertainment venues fully reopen after being closed or limiting capacity for much of 2020. Traffic levels are expected to jump this summer, too, as more workers return to the office and families take road trips. Also alarming is that the trend lines for alcohol- and drug- impaired driving are heading in the wrong direction as traffic picks up. Traffic deaths rose more than 7% in 2020 to a 13-year high, according to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There was also a 9% jump in police-reported alcohol-related crashes and further evidence of increases in drugged driving on U.S. roads last year.

“Americans spent the past year trying to stay safe, only to return to the road and face another deadly threat – drunk and drug-impaired drivers,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “As more states legalize marijuana, bars reopen and friends reunite, these grants will help advance proven and innovative ways to address some of the deadliest drivers and improve roadway safety.”

The grants will help states implement key recommendations in the GHSA report on High-Risk Impaired Drivers (HRID), funded by Responsibility.org and released in December 2019. While every impaired driver is high risk, this report and the Responsibility.org STOP HRID online resource hub recommend proven, multidisciplinary approaches to classifying impaired driving by risk and addressing the specific dangers posed by the highest risk offenders.

The GHSA report calls on states to prevent recidivism and reduce the number of impaired driving fatalities by taking an individualized justice approach to the problem. This is a multidisciplinary effort that includes identifying the root cause of an offender’s behavior, determining and administering the appropriate treatment and sanctions, and monitoring and holding them accountable so that they are less likely to recidivate. The programs that will be funded with these latest grants include:

  • Assessing substance use disorders and mental health of impaired drivers. Louisiana will use its grant to create a pilot project to administer screening to drivers convicted of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated through the Computerized Assessment Referral System (CARS). Municipal and state judges will use these assessments to identify a defendant’s treatments needs and make more individualized sentencing decisions, reducing the chances of recidivism.
     
  • Training law enforcement officials to be forensic phlebotomists. Georgia’s grant will enable 96 law enforcement officers to receive phlebotomy training to better detect drug-, alcohol- or polysubstance-impaired drivers. This will reduce the number of driving under the influence cases that go to trial with no toxicology reports and allow blood draws in a safe and timely fashion, giving officers a more accurate account of the drugs or alcohol in a driver’s system.
     
  • Recognizing and addressing drug-impaired driving. Maryland will use its grant to train law enforcement officers on how to observe, identify and articulate the signs of drug impairment in drivers through a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course and three Cannabis Intoxication Impaired Driving Labs. Additional grant funding will allow the State Toxicology Unit to process additional blood results for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving cases.
     
  • Expanding the cadre of drug recognition experts statewide. Wisconsin’s grant will fund law enforcement training to identify drug-impaired drivers. The state currently has a DRE in 50 of 72 counties, but many of those are underserved with only one or two in each county. As instances of drugged driving in Wisconsin rise, the grant will enable the state to have a DRE in every county and reduce the number of drugged driving cases that are dismissed or pled down.

“Every 50 minutes, someone in the United States dies from a preventable impaired driving crash. Responsibility.org is honored to continue our partnership with GHSA to support state efforts to address alcohol, drug and multi-substance impaired driving and remove high-risk impaired drivers from our nation’s roadways,” said Dr. Darrin T. Grondel, Responsibility.org’s Vice President of Traffic Safety and Government Relations.

For more information on the grants and previous state program results, visit the GHSA website.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Responsibility.org

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a national not-for-profit that leads the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Beam Suntory, Inc.; Brown-Forman; Constellation Brands, Inc.; DIAGEO; Edrington; Mast-Jägermeister US; Moët Hennessy USA; and Pernod Ricard USA. Recognizing 29 years of impact, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families and communities together to guide a lifetime of conversations around alcohol responsibility and offers proven strategies to stop impaired driving. To learn more, visit responsibility.org.