The National Highway and Travel Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released a study showing that one-in-five Americans age 16 and over drove a car within two hours of drinking alcohol over a one year period. And nearly one-third of them admitted they thought they were over the legal limit. That means almost 17 million drunk drivers on the roads.
We need to do more to keep drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, and this study also gives important insight into how to make that happen.
Participants in the NHTSA study were asked what would be most effective way of preventing drunk driving. Having a device in vehicles to prevent a driver from driving drunk was regarded as "very effective" by 63 percent.
The ROADS SAFE Act, which I introduced earlier this year with Republican Senator Bob Corker, would research technology to make that possible.
It would authorize $12 million in annual funding for five years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program for the development of new in-vehicle technology to prevent individuals with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit from driving.
If such technology were widely deployed in cars, experts believe an estimated 8,000 lives could be saved every year.
Earlier this summer, I sat down with Chuck Hurley, the recently retired CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), to discuss the ROADS SAFE Act and how it would make a difference, in the first episode of The Udall Update.http://tomudall.senate.gov/?p=
While this study by NHTSA makes it clear that there is much still to be done to prevent drunk driving, there were also many signs of progress. Public awareness campaigns and stiff penalties for DWIs have been successful in making more and more people aware of the dangers of drunk-driving. NHTSA found that four-in-five people find drinking and driving to be a major safety threat to themselves and their families.
Every drunk driving death is a preventable death, and the ROADS SAFE Act will help find ways to use technology to make drunk driving a problem of the past.