The National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime (NPAMC) is an inclusive public-private partnership committed to identifying, developing, and promoting justice programs that improve public safety, reduce recidivism, and change lives for offenders who misuse alcohol.
Our stakeholders are comprised of professionals from a broad cross-section of diverse industries including:
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and it reminds us that, while we have accomplished a great deal, there is much more to be done to reduce impaired driving in order to save lives and prevent injuries. One seemingly simple concept that is difficult (but not impossible) to implement is: separating drinking from driving. Health problems of all types related to alcohol misuse are a tremendous public health concern, but perhaps one of the most highly visible examples are the crashes that occur when alcohol is paired with driving.
I have worked for decades (in my home state, nationwide, and internationally) as a public health professional specializing in injury prevention until one day, almost exactly one year ago this week, I was given the honor of serving on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Our mission at the NTSB is to investigate transportation accidents, determine the probable cause, and make recommendations to improve safety. We are independent of all other federal agencies and we greatly value our independence, our credibility, and our transparency. In this unique agency, I have been at the scene of transportation accidents in many modes – aviation, marine, rail – but I know that, day in and day out, it is the deaths on our roads that claim the most lives and cause the most debilitating injuries. Motor vehicle crashes account for more than 30,000 deaths every year and alcohol-impaired driving is related to about 10,000 of those deaths. In fact, year, since 1995, 10,000 Americans have lost their lives because of drinking and driving. And another 100,000 Americans have suffered injuries each year. Without exaggeration, this should be considered a terrible public health crisis, as evidenced by the United Nations and World Health Organization calling for a Decade of Action to reduce road deaths. The good news is that we can all take action and, by working together, we can implement and support evidence-based, data-driven interventions to prevent impaired driving.
The NTSB published a report focused on substance-impaired driving. The Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving report included safety recommendations in areas such as conducting high-visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws and incorporating passive alcohol sensing technology into enforcement efforts; expanding the use of in-vehicle devices to prevent operation by an impaired driver; using driving while intoxicated (DWI) courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders; reducing the per se blood alcohol concentration limit for all drivers; and establishing measurable goals for reducing impaired driving and tracking progress toward those goals.
These interventions can be grouped into two general types – (1) targeted interventions that will address high-BAC and problem drinkers and (2) broad-based interventions that help prevent people at all BAC levels from drinking and driving. Both approaches represent important tools to prevent deaths and injuries due to impaired driving.
It can be done if the public and private sectors work together towards the common goal of preventing impaired driving before it happens. We are all in this together – from government agencies such as the NTSB to judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law enforcement, medical and public health professionals, researchers, companies, and businesses including the hospitality industry. Perhaps I am an optimist, but I think that we all want the same thing – to get people home safely. There should only be one enemy – and that enemy is an impaired driving crash.
We may disagree on the most effective ways to achieve our safety goals, but rather than competing to implement our respective solutions, let’s communicate with each other so we can take coordinated steps where possible – and perhaps, just maybe, one day we may even convince each other of some our positions, if it is backed by scientific evidence and public support.
But this is not just about .05. It is about working together to come up with practical and efficient ways to implement effective solutions to our impaired driving epidemic. It is about separating drinking from driving. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. Taking a look back at history, we have made incredible advances in occupant protection but we should remember that not so long ago, states had no seat belt laws and cars had no seat belts.
I don’t expect to convince you today to accept all of our safety recommendations (although I hope you will take a look at our Reaching Zero report to learn more about them). But I do hope that I have convinced you of our willingness and dedication to working with you to prevent the terrible deaths and injuries associated with impaired driving. We can’t do it without you. Let’s separate drinking from driving. Let’s work together.