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ASSE Backs NTSB Call for States to Adopted 0.05 BAC Level for Impaired Driving

09/26/2014

Based on the development of a position statement on the issue by ASSE’s Transportation Practice Specialty, ASSE offered the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) support for its call to adopt measures that can encourage states to reduce the legal standard of driver impairment due to alcohol consumption, as measured by blood-alcohol content (BAC), from 0.08% to 0.05%. .  NTSB’s position was included in its 2013 Safety Report Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving (http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2013/SR1301.pdf).

ASSE's letter --

September 16, 2014

Honorable Christopher A. Hart

Acting Chairman

National Transportation Safety Board

490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW

Washington, DC  20594

RE:   ASSE Support for NTSB Call for .05 BAC Level

Dear Acting Chairman Hart:

On behalf of our more than 36,000 member safety and health professionals, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) offers its support for the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) call to adopt measures that can encourage states to reduce the legal standard of driver impairment due to alcohol consumption, as measured by blood-alcohol content (BAC), from 0.08% to 0.05%.

Founded shortly after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional society for safety and health professionals.  Our members work in every state and across the globe.  We have 150 chapters, including nine in other nations.  Our members belong to twenty practice specialties, including a very active Transportation Practice Specialty whose members led this effort to support NTSB’s position.  We are also the Secretariat for a variety of workplace safety and health voluntary consensus standards, including the Z15.1, Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations (/assets/1/7/Z15_1_Tech_Brief_4_20121.pdf).

ASSE’s interest in seeing that the legal standard for driver impairment is lowered arises from our members’ interest in doing whatever is reasonably possible to make driving safer.  Year after year more workers die on our nation’s highways than any other kind of workplace, as the NTSB fully understands.  On the release of NTSB’s 2013 Safety Report, Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving (http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2013/SR1301.pdf), the members of our Transportation Practice Specialty took it upon themselves to develop the attached position statement supporting NTSB’s call. 

Our members know how to work with employers to manage the risks that come with workers on our highways.  But they need the appropriate support of government and law enforcement to reduce the chance that, despite their best efforts, a worker will be the victim of the alcohol-impaired driving of another driver,”  ASSE President Trish Ennis wrote in the letter to the Board.  “We know the effort to achieve a 0.05 BAC across the country will be long and challenging.  We encourage you to include ASSE if there are opportunities to work together with the NTSB and its partners in helping advance this effort.

We know the effort to achieve a 0.05 BAC across the country will be long and challenging.  We encourage you to include ASSE if there are opportunities to work together with the NTSB and its partners in helping advance this effort.  The members of our Transportation Practice Specialty in particular are eager to work to support the adoption of this measure.   Likewise, ASSE’s members would welcome NTSB’s participation in our educational opportunities, our publications, or in any other ASSE activity.  NTSB’s work in helping manage the risks Americans face in transportation is very close to the work our members do managing risks in our nation’s workplaces.  ASSE looks forward to working with you.  

Again, thank you for your leadership in advancing highway safety by calling for a 0.05% BAC level. 

Sincerely,

Patricia M. Ennis, CSP, ARM

President

cc:   Honorable Robert L. Sumwalt, Member

Honorable Mark R. Rosekind, PhD, Member

Honorable Earl F. Weener, PhD, Member

   

ASSE Position Statement

NTSB Call for Reduction of BAC Level

On May 14, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a public statement on the matter of alcohol-impaired drivers operating motor vehicles on American roads and highways (http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2013/130514.html).  Of particular note was their specific call for action by NHTSA, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to reduce the legal standard of driver impairment due to alcohol consumption, as measured by blood-alcohol content (BAC), from 0.08% to 0.05% (http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2013/SR1301.pdf).

This NTSB recommendation was based on their reviews of recent, pertinent studies, their evaluation of motor vehicle crash statistics, and their review of the motor vehicle operating standards as well as highway safety statistics in numerous developed countries worldwide.   It was well researched and considered, in keeping with the beneficial and highly credible history of the NTSB.  The facts are clear:  the number of highway fatalities in the USA remains unduly high, and that about one-third of all fatal crashes involve a driver under the influence of alcohol.

ASSE realizes that changing the legal standard for what constitutes alcohol-impaired driving will not, in-and-of-itself, solve this complex problem.  This is not, however, unprecedented.  The per se BAC previously went from 0.10% to 0.08%, and commercial driver’s license holders are held to a 0.04% BAC standard.  Solutions to support broad-based practical enforcement of a new standard will need to be developed.  Governments have faced similar challenges before, and they have been successful in getting us where we are today.  But where we are today is no longer satisfactory, as witnessed by the continuing and unacceptable loss of life, personal injury, property damage and lost productivity our nation feels every day due to impaired driver-caused motor vehicle crashes.

ASSE also acknowledges that this action does not address the major concern of repeat offenders.  Multiple studies as well as NHTSA have clearly shown that about one-third of all driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests are repeat offenders.  This, too, must change.

ASSE’s members’ significant interest in advancing highway safety is based on their professional commitment to work with employers to manage occupational safety and health risks that keep workers from getting home alive and uninjured to their families each day. 

Our members are acutely aware that more workers in the United States die in transportation incidents than from any other cause.  In 2012, transportation incidents accounted for more than 2 out of every 5 fatal work injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm).  

In light of the above, the members of the ASSE endorse and support the call by the NTSB for a reduction in the legal standard for alcohol-impaired driving in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico from 0.08% to 0.05%.  We support the improvement of required driver training and education curricula to better educate drivers on this grave concern. 

ASSE understands, however, that this measure must be undertaken in the context of a continued effort to find new and better ways to educate drivers, to expand and strengthen teen driver training, to find improved ways of communicating to all drivers, and to empower more employers with the necessary tools to address the risk of impaired driving.  To that end, ASSE also supports the development of appropriate engineered safeguards such as BAC-activated ignition locks, in-vehicle BAC sensors, and similar equipment.  We strongly encourage employers to initiate and implement improved employee safe driving policies that include this reduced BAC standard.  And we support efforts by law enforcement and the legal system to enforce diligently this standard to advance the safety of the public and those workers who use our transportation systems.

Developed and Approved August 19, 2013 by ASSE Transportation Practice Specialty

Approved November 16, 2013 by Government Affairs Committee

Approved March 17, 2014 ASSE Board of Directors

 

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