• August 5th, 2019

The goal of the traffic safety community remains unchanged each year: eliminate all fatalities on our roadways. Regardless of individual areas of focus, each organization and agency that operates within the highway safety sphere seeks to decrease the number of lives lost each year to preventable crashes. The ultimate goal of reaching zero lives lost in motor vehicle crashes continues to motivate advocates, practitioners, and legislators alike to take action. At the start of every new year, policy and programmatic solutions are put forth to target the road user behaviors that lead to fatal and serious injury crashes.

After two years of increases in the number of individuals killed on our nation’s roadways there has finally been a marginal decline. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,133 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. This represents a 1.8% decrease from 2016. An examination of factors involved in fatal crashes reveals that avoidable behaviors such as alcohol-impaired driving, drug-impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving, and drowsy driving continue to contribute to motor vehicle collisions. For these reasons, it is crucial that we continue to focus prevention, education, and enforcement efforts on addressing impaired driving in all of its forms.

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of all motor vehicle fatalities, the lowest percentage since NHTSA began reporting national fatality data in 1982. This represents a 1.1% reduction in fatalities from 2016. While the decrease in fatalities represents progress, more work must be done, particularly when it comes to addressing the threat posed by high-risk impaired drivers (i.e., individuals who drive at high blood alcohol concentrations (.15>), drive impaired repeatedly, or drive after consuming a combination of alcohol and drugs or multiple drugs). These individuals should be targeted for additional intervention and be subject to intensive supervision and treatment that addresses any underlying substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders.