National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC -National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker testified today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality that more needs to be done to get drunk drivers off our nation's streets and highways. He said that, "while alcohol-related fatalities have decreased since 1982, there has been little improvement in last 10 years."
In 2006, 17,602 persons were killed in alcohol-related crashes. During his testimony on the Effectiveness of Federal Drunk Driving Programs, he highlighted the Safety Board's concerns about the accidents and fatalities involving hard-core drinking drivers.
In 2000, the NTSB issued recommendations to all states aimed at hard core drinking drivers as a means to further reduce the toll on impaired drivers. The Safety Board defines hard core drinking drivers, who are involved in about 54 percent of alcohol related fatalities, as individuals who drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or greater, or who are arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) within 10 years of a prior DWI arrest. The Board's 11-element model program asks that all states take action to reduce these preventable crashes and deaths.
Currently, only California, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, and Virginia have implemented a sufficient number of elements to close this recommendation. Action is needed in the remaining states.
"The NTSB has worked for years with the states to reduce drinking and driving, and we've had success, but more needs to be done," Rosenker said. "Impaired driving actions have been on our list of Most Wanted Safety Recommendations since its inception in 1990 and we have made recommendations for closing the loopholes in age 21 laws and enforcing those laws. We also recommended zero alcohol tolerance laws for underage drivers."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, since 1975, nearly 25,000 teen deaths have been prevented by age 21 laws. However, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers and alcohol remains the leading drug of choice for youth.
"Studies have shown that lowering the legal drinking age will increase the consumption of alcohol and alcohol-related accidents by young drivers," said Rosenker. "Why would we repeal or weaken laws that save lives?"
NTSB Media Contact:
Terry N. Williams
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.