Statement of Tara Gill, Senior Director Advocacy and State Legislation, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, On Introduction of Lifesaving Michigan Legislation — HB 4419, HB 4420 and HB 4421 Will Significantly Curb Drunk Driving
Today, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) is pleased to join Representative Abdullah Hammoud (MI-D-15) to announce the introduction of House Bill (HB) 4419 to enact an all-offender ignition interlock device (IID) requirement and HB 4420 and HB 4421 to lower the limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) while driving from .08 to .05 percent. Advocates commends Rep. Hammoud for sponsoring legislation to curb alcohol impaired driving and the resulting preventable crashes, fatalities and injuries. The horrific drunk driving crash that killed the Abbas family in January is an urgent call to action to stop a leading cause of motor vehicle crashes, alcohol impairment.
In 2017, there were 1,030 fatalities on Michigan’s roads and thirty-six percent of those deaths (371) were alcohol-related. Alcohol impaired driving fatalities in Michigan are on the rise, having spiked 32 percent in 2017. In addition to the tremendous emotional toll, traffic crashes exert a heavy financial toll. Michigan taxpayers foot the bill of nearly $9.6 billion annually. This amounts to a “crash tax” of $971 for every Michigander, well over the national average of $784. Drunk driving is also hurting businesses. Nationally, these crashes cost employers $6 billion each year, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). Drunk driving is a deadly and costly problem that requires immediate attention and action.
One of the most effective strategies to curb these tragic and completely preventable fatalities are strong impaired driving laws that target a range of dangerous behaviors related to alcohol consumption and driving. HBs 4420 and 4421 put forth the improvement of a .05 percent BAC level, a solution that has been adopted in numerous foreign countries for decades. The United States has fallen behind other developed nations in prioritizing impaired driving prevention to end traffic fatalities. A new report from the World Health Organization, “Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018,” reviewed laws and crashes in 175 nations and found that the U.S. traffic fatality rate is more than double other developed nations in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. One of the key differences between the U.S. and these countries is our impaired driving laws, particularly the .08 percent BAC limit. The other nations enforce .05 percent or lower BAC laws.
Moreover, .05 percent BAC policy is recommended by leading safety organizations such as the National Association of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the National Transportation Safety Board as well as a majority of Americans. Recent national surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation and the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute found that a strong majority of Americans support .05 percent BAC laws (63 percent and 55 percent, respectively).
Last year, Utah became the first state in the nation to enforce a .05 percent BAC law, and a number of state legislatures are considering .05 percent BAC bills this session. Research estimates that if all states adopted a .05 percent or lower BAC law, our nation would experience an 11 percent decline in fatal alcohol crashes and 1,790 lives would be saved.
There are also technological solutions to reduce drunk driving-related deaths and injuries. HB 4419 would require the use of IIDs by all offenders to prevent individuals from operating a vehicle when their BAC exceeds a certain level. A common misconception is that most people who are convicted of their first drunk driving offense are social drinkers who made one mistake. However, studies show that the average first offender will have driven drunk 87 times before getting arrested. A University of Pennsylvania study found that laws requiring IIDs for anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs have reduced alcohol-involved crash deaths by 15 percent. The study shows that states with mandatory interlock laws saw a decrease of 0.8 deaths for every 100,000 people each year, compared to states with less stringent laws. This number is comparable to the estimated number of lives saved by frontal airbags (0.9 lives saved per 100,000 people). There is also clear public support for these laws with surveys showing between 69 and 88 percent of respondents in favor of requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) found that nationally between 2006 and 2016, IID laws stopped 2.3 million attempts to drive drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also found that these laws reduce recidivism for both first-time and repeat drunk driving offenders. Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have all-offender IID laws. But, that is not enough. Every state should require this technological vaccine against the epidemic of drunk driving. We urge Michigan and the other 17 states to enact this law with urgency this legislative session.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adult drivers admitted they drank too much and got behind the wheel approximately 111 million times in 2016, which equals over 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day. However, only 1 million, or approximately one percent, were arrested for driving under the influence that year. Across our nation, 10,874 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2017. Each person needlessly killed in an alcohol-related crash forever changes the lives of families and communities.
We urge the Michigan Legislature to advance HBs 4419, 4420 and 4421 and send a clear message that drunk driving will not be tolerated. We have proven solutions to protect Michigan families and visitors. It is past time to implement them and eradicate drunk driving.