Good afternoon Chairman Clark, Chairman O'Flaherty, and committee members. I am Dr. Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Board Member responsible for advancing the agency's efforts on substance-impaired driving. Thank you for the opportunity to testify and thank you, Representative Costello, for your leadership on House Bill 1278 to require ignition interlocks for all individuals convicted of driving while impaired. Your years of work in the area of drug and alcohol abuse give you particular insight into the complexity of getting impaired drivers off the roads.
The NTSB's mission is to advance transportation safety by investigating accidents in all modes of transportation and making recommendations to prevent future accidents. We see firsthand the tragic results of highway crashes that cause over 90 percent of all transportation-related deaths in this country and are the leading cause of death for people age five through 34.
Among these highway deaths, alcohol-impaired driving is still responsible for killing about 10,000 people annually. In addition, another 173,000 people are injured every year, including 27,000 who suffer catastrophic, incapacitating injuries. All this costs the nation $130 billion a year and is completely preventable.
Yes, we have reduced the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities from more than 21,000 in 1982 to just fewer than 10,000 in 2011. But 10,000 deaths a year is not a victory. It tells us all that there is so much more to do to eliminate what are tragic, senseless, and unnecessary deaths and injuries.
Today, one out of every three deaths on America's roads is related to a driver who has had too much to drink. Measures like House Bill 1278 recognize that making significant gains in reducing these deaths and injuries will take a lot more work. It took three decades of hard work to reduce alcohol-related fatalities from one-half the nation's total to one-third, yet it has been stuck there for over 15 years.
Over the past year and a half, the NTSB has taken a bold, fresh look at alcohol-impaired driving and released a report called "Reaching Zero - Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving" with a set of targeted interventions including 19 new recommendations on stronger laws, swifter enforcement, and expanded use of technology. It is available on our website at NTSB.gov.
It shows compelling evidence that a substantial number of drivers with high BAC- levels involved in crashes are not just "hard core" problem drinkers. It also shows that technology can - and should - be embraced in the battle at every level. Interlocks are effective in reducing recidivism among DWI offenders – in some cases by as much as 75 percent. One study concludes that this technology, successfully employed, could have prevented about 1,100 deaths annually. Once seen as a sanction for repeat or high-BAC offenders, they have now increasingly become part of a comprehensive strategy on alcohol-impaired driving and this is why the NTSB supports House Bill 1278.
There is no argument that addressing this leading killer on America's roads requires a bold, multi-faceted approach involving everyone from the serious repeat offender to those who, for whatever reason, have simply had too much to drink and cannot operate a vehicle safely. I urge this committee to vote favorably for House Bill 1278. Thousands of lives will benefit from your action.