Judging Traffic



November, 2012

  • Report Released on South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project

  • California Office of Traffic Safety  Impaired-Driving Survey

  • NHTSA Awards Two States Grants to Help Curb Texting and Driving

  • The Effect of Cell Phone Bans on Driver Behavior, Accidents, and Casualties

  • Police in Colorado and Washington Concerned about Marijuana Use and Driving

Editor: Gregory S. Hurley

Report Released on South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project
Science Daily reported on November 15, 2012 that the Rand Corporation has released its study on South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project.  Program participants are screened daily for alcohol usage.  It uses swift but moderate sanctions for individuals who are caught using alcohol.  The study used data collected over six years.  It determined that the program reduced county-level repeat DUI arrests by 12 percent and domestic violence arrests by 9 percent.  Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND said, "The results suggest that frequent alcohol testing with swift, certain and modest sanctions for violations can reduce problem drinking and improve public health outcomes."   However, the evidence was inconclusive on whether the program had an impact on the number of traffic crashes. 

California Office of Traffic Safety Impaired-Driving Survey
The California Office of Public Safety issued a press release on November 19, 2012.  It stated that on select Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., 1,300 drivers voluntarily agreed to provide breath and/or saliva samples to police.  The samples were tested for drugs and alcohol.  The results indicated that 14 percent tested positive for drugs and 7.3 percent tested positive for alcohol.  The press release noted that the state had already taken a number of steps to help reduce these numbers.  They have special prosecutors in many jurisdictions that stay on a DUI case from arrest through trial, they have drug recognition experts, and the state has recently reformed its impaired-driving statutory scheme.

NHTSA Awards Two States Grants to Help Curb Texting and Driving
In a press release on October 16, 2012, NHTSA announced that Connecticut and Massachusetts will receive $275,000 each to establish best practices for enforcement programs aimed at curbing texting and driving.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "We have come a long way in our fight against distracted driving, but there is still much work to be done. Texting behind the wheel is especially dangerous, which is why we're working with states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to address this important safety issue."  Thirty-nine states have statutes prohibiting texting while driving, and ten states have statutes prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving.  Enforcing texting laws is challenging for law enforcement.  NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, "These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving."

The Effect of Cell Phone Bans on Driver Behavior, Accidents, and Casualties
Cheng Cheng, a doctoral student at Texas A&M University, Department of Economics, released a paper on November 6, 2012 titled, "The Effect of Cell Phone Bans on Driver Behavior, Accidents, and Casualties."  He uses "individual-level observational survey data on drivers' visible cell phone usage, and state-level data  on traffic accidents and casualties from 2004-2010."  Mr. Cheng concluded that while bans on texting and the use of handheld devices while driving have been effective in curbing usage, these statutory measures have not had an impact on accident or casualty rates.  Although his conclusions are controversial, Cheng's paper is interesting.

Police in Colorado and Washington Concerned about Marijuana Use and Driving
The Huffington Post reported on November 15, 2012 that the recent changes in the law regarding marijuana possession in Colorado and Washington will have a negative effect on roadway safety. Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon said, "We've had decades of studies and experience with alcohol.  Marijuana is new, so it's going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be drugs or alcohol."  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics from 2009 showed a third of fatally injured drivers with known drug test results were positive for drugs other than alcohol.

New NHTSA Publications

Washington's Target Zero Teams Project: Reduction in Fatalities During Year One (Research Note)

In, 2010, the Target Zero Teams Project (TZTP) began, as a collaboration among WTSC, WSP and local law enforcement agencies, with the goal of deploy­ing the Nighttime Emphasis Enforcement Team concept (first conducted in Snohomish County in 2006) in the three largest counties in Washington State: King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County.  In 2010, 51.2 percent of Washington State's population lived in one of these three counties, and they accounted for 63.8 percent of the traffic fatalities in Washington State (NHTSA, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). The label "Target Zero Teams" originates from Washington's Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which is titled "Target Zero" to reflect Washington's goal of reducing traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2030, and which names impaired driving a top priority.

The pur­pose of this research note is to describe the first year of the project and report the reduction in fatalities in the TZTP counties after its first 10 months of operation.

Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws (26th Edition, 2011)

This digest reports the status of state laws that are concerned with impaired driving offenses and alcoholic beverage control. It is extensively footnoted and contains comprehensive information on critical impaired-driving laws for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Community-Based Impaired-Driving Programs: Local Ordinances and Other Strategies Addressing Impaired Driving

This publication is a resource to help communities identify appropriate, effective, and promising strategies and legislation that can be implemented locally to reduce impaired driving. 

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