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Who Is a High-Risk Impaired Driver?

Identifying a high-risk impaired driver typically leads to the application of an established response that imposes a heavy fine and jail time. But this response seems to be ineffective. This punishment assumes that all impaired drivers are alike – and they are not. Something different is needed according to a new report from state highway officials and the drunk driving prevention group of the liquor industry.

Who Is a High-Risk Impaired Driver - Altizer Law PC

The report, “High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat” was released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in partnership with  The report calls for a “systemic and holistic approach to high-risk impaired drivers” that examines each individual and treatment of the underlying problem that is expressed in their unsafe behavior.

The High-Risk Impaired Driver

In the report, a high-risk impaired driver is a person without the restraint or self-control to resist driving impaired and meets one or more of three criteria:

  • Drives with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 1.15 g/dL or higher after consuming alcohol.
  • Has consumed a combination of drugs and alcohol (polysubstance user).
  • Is a repeat offender (has been arrested more than once for DUI).

Many of those who drive impaired have a mental health disorder in addition to the substance use disorder, according to research from Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School. The report points out that the mental health disorder often goes undetected.

Individualized Justice

The Criminal Justice System currently deals with these high-risk impaired drivers by punishing them for each incident of driving impaired. The report argues that if we want to stop recidivism by these drivers, it is necessary to work with the driver beyond detection, arrest, and punishment.

According to Darrin Grondel director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and chair of GHSA, “The aim of this new report is to encourage states and their partners to take a more holistic approach to the problem by identifying and treating the cause of the offender’s behavior to reduce recidivism and promote long-term behavior change.”

Scope of the Issue

The report points out that alcohol-impaired fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. in 2018. This is, admittedly, the smallest percentage since 1982 (when the NHTSA began reporting alcohol information). Despite this decline, in 2018 an alcohol-impaired crash fatality occurred every 50 minutes in the U.S.

Repeat offenders are responsible for approximately one-third of impaired driving deaths every year. High BAC offenders are involved in more than 60 percent of alcohol-impaired fatalities. During 2018, about two-thirds of drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC greater than 0.15 g/dL.

It is also important to note that alcohol is not the only substance related to impaired driving. In the past 10 years, there has been a 16 percent increase in the number of impaired drivers who tested positive for both alcohol and other drugs. Thus, the report calls for testing drivers for the presence of alcohol and other drugs.

The recommendation in the report is that “we need to identify the root cause of each individual’s behavior and then determine what treatment along with sanctions should be administered so that we break this cycle and prevent impaired driving deaths.”

Call Altizer Law, P.C.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving an impaired driver, call Altizer Law, P.C. We will review your injuries and the crash with you and explain your legal rights. Bettina Altizer and her expert team help people who have been injured in auto accidents due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another driver and through no fault of their own. They understand that when rebuilding your life after a serious crash, it’s about the money.