It’s hard to believe that as recently as the early 1980’s drunk driving was responsible for 50% of the fatal car crashes in the U.S. We can be grateful, though, that private and government agencies have been working together since then to lower that statistic.
A primary advocate for tightening drunk driving legislation is the National Transportation Safety Board. In 1984, the NTSB introduced some recommendations for all 50 states to help their governments address the problem of drunk driving and the accidents it causes. By 2009, the number of drunk driving-related accident deaths was down to 32% of all traffic fatalities but, naturally, any percentage is too high. So, the NTSB went on to address what about those remaining offenders could be the greatest problem. It was determined that about 70% of those drunk driver-caused fatalities were instigated by what they call “hard core drinking driving.”
Hard core drinking driving refers to a couple kinds of drunk driving habits: 1) repeat offender drunk drivers with a prior arrest or conviction within 10 years or 2) drivers who test with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.15% or higher. (In Colorado, driving with a BAC of .05% or higher is illegal.) As a result of these findings, the NTSB proposed an 11 point plan of action they still hope will be adopted by all 50 states. The elements to their plan:
- statewide sobriety checkpoints*
- sanctions to restrict or separate hard core drinking drivers from their vehicles
- state/community cooperative programs to enforce drunk driving driver’s license suspension/revocation
- legislation that will require DUI offenders keep a 0% BAC while driving
- legislation that defines a BAC of 0.15% or higher as an “aggravated” DUI offense
- alternatives to DUI confinement (house arrest/electronic monitoring)*
- legislation to restrict plea bargaining for a DUI offense down to a lesser charge*
- elimination of diversion programs that erase, defer or purge DUI records
- administrative license revocation for BAC test failure/refusal*
- DUI record retention and a look-back period of 10 years or longer
- individualized sanction programs for hard core DUI offenders*
The asterisked suggested actions are those that have already been adopted by the State of Colorado. We’re almost halfway there, but if Colorado can lessen DUI car crashes and accident fatalities even more, we need to consider adopting all 11 points of the NTSB plan.
The NTSB is an independent federal accident investigation agency created in 1967. The Safety Board’s mission has been to determine the probable cause of transportation accidents and to formulate safety recommendations to improve transportation safety.