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Law enforcement focusing on ‘high-risk impaired drivers’

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 11, 2021

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving accounted for 29% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2018. The good news is that the percentage has been going down ever since 1982, when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data. There was even a 3.6% drop in fatal drunk driving accidents between 2017 and 2018.

Yet we all understand that drunk driving is a serious problem on our roadways. In 2018, a drunk driving death occurred about once every 50 minutes.

Drivers know that driving while impaired by alcohol is dangerous. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 95% of drivers surveyed said they knew that drinking more than the legal limit of alcohol was either “very” or “extremely” dangerous. Yet around 11% of those same survey respondents admitted driving over the limit in the previous month.

Now, law enforcement is starting to focus on drivers they feel pose extra danger on the road. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) calls them “high-risk impaired drivers.”

What is a high-risk impaired driver?

A high-risk impaired driver is someone who meets these four characteristics:

  • Has repeat DUI convictions
  • Has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% (nearly twice the legal limit in most states)
  • Uses more than one impairing substance
  • Lacks the self-control to resist driving drunk

Any impaired motorist could be a danger, but people in this category are considered much more dangerous. Their behavior doesn’t seem to change after a drunk driving conviction. Many have psychological issues that make it hard to control their behavior. Others have substance abuse problems.

According to the GHSA, the greater the blood alcohol concentration, the more likely a driver is to be involved in a fatal accident. And, of those drivers in 2018 who tested positive for alcohol after a fatal accident, 66% were above 0.15%.

Polysubstance abuse, whether it involves alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, can increase the effects of any single drug, causing the driver to become more impaired.

The GHSA recommends a crackdown

The GHSA recently issued a report on high-risk impaired drivers and recommends that law enforcement make an extra effort to catch and prosecute these drivers. Ideally, the process would include drug and alcohol treatment, along with psychological treatment where necessary.

Unfortunately, being prosecuted for DUI or DWAI does not guarantee you will get the treatment you need.

If you have been arrested for DUI and may be considered a high-risk impaired driver, reach out for help. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to keep you from being labeled high-risk and help minimize the consequences of a DUI arrest.