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January 2013 


Drugged Driving More Prevalent Than Drunk Driving, Study Finds


By Aaron Sankin


Drugged driving has become more prevalent on California roads and highways than drunk driving, a study released earlier this month by the state's Office of Traffic Safety found.


The report, which looked at the drug and alcohol test results of weekend, nighttime drivers in California found that 14 percent tested positive for drugs known to impair driving ability. Just under 7.5 percent of the same group tested positive for alcohol.


"These results reinforce our belief that driving after consuming potentially impairing drugs is a serious and growing problem," Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher Murphy said in a statement.


Nearly a quarter of drivers who tested positive for alcohol had also consumed another drug.


Pot was the most commonly found drug present in the tests, which used a measurement able to determine if marijuana had been ingested in the past few hours (in contrast to other tests for cannabis that can test positive weeks after consumption).


The study analyzed breath and saliva samples voluntarily provided by 1,300 drivers at roadside locations in nine cities across the state. The samples were collected between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, the times when drunk and drugged driving are most likely to occur. They screened for alcohol, marijuana and other illegal narcotics as well as prescription and over-the-counter drugs known to negatively affect driving.


The Orange County Register reports:

[The Office of Traffic Safety] commissioned the $650,000 study by the Maryland-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, paid for with federal funds. It initially questioned whether such a voluntary survey would accurately reflect the problem: Would a driver high on cocaine, for example, agree to stop and talk about it? But Cochran said the participation rate was so high, even among drivers who initially wanted no part of it, that the study's authors determined it was statistically sound.


ABC Sacramento noted that Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently increased its focus on drugged driving. "Driving under the influence no longer means just alcohol," said MADD California Program Manager Silas Miers. "It includes alcohol and drugs and a combination of both. The result and the consequences are really the same. People get arrested or they end up dead."


Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that sorted drugged driving, drunk driving and driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol into separate offenses. That law goes into effect at the end of next year.


A national survey among fatally injured conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2010 found that one-third of said victims tested positive for at least one drug.


NHTSA: Fatalities Go Down as Seat-Belt Use Goes Up


Seat-belt use has been increasing steadily each year for nearly the past two decades, and 2012 is no exception. According to a national study, overall seat-belt use increased to 86% this year, a 2% improvement from 2011.


The study, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, is conducted annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Center for Statistics. This year's survey, which observes seat-belt use through real-world observations, studied more than 93,000 occupants of 73,460 vehicles between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. June 4-17 at 1,700 randomly selected roadway sites, NHTSA stated.


Showing the greatest gains were the 17 Southern states; seat-belt use there spiked 5%, bringing its 2012 total to 85%. That's more than double the increase of the Midwestern states. The dozen states surveyed in the Midwest posted a 2% increase, also for a total of 85%. Still, both those regions have a long way to go if they hope to catch the 13 Western states, where overall seat-belt use is 94%, following this year's 1% uptick. Bringing up the rear, the Northeast posted no change in its seat-belt use for 2012, remaining at a nationwide low of 80%.


The Northeast's last-place finish is somewhat counterintuitive considering that two-thirds of its states have laws allowing police to stop motorists solely for not using seat belts - the second most among the four surveyed regions. NHTSA's survey showed that primary-enforcement states tend to have higher seat-belt-law compliance; combined, their national total this year increased by 3% for 90% overall. That's compared with secondary-enforcement states that have weaker seat-belt laws, which this year made a 2% gain for 78% overall.


In the South, only two of 16 states and the District of Columbia are secondary-enforcement compared with more than half of the Midwest. Meanwhile in the West, which has the greatest seat-belt compliance overall, fewer than half of the individual states are primary-enforcement.


Other areas of the survey posting 2012's greatest gains in seat-belt use include motorists driving through light fog (a 6% increase); in slow traffic (4%); and in light traffic (4%). Even the group of surveyed motorists with the poorest compliance - pickup truck drivers - showed a 3% improvement for 77% overall.

According to NHTSA figures, steady seat-belt-use increase since 1994 has been accompanied by a comparably steady reduction in daytime passenger-vehicle fatalities. As of 2010, the last year for which fatality data was available, the number had been reduced by 42%.


"Research has found that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent," NHTSA said in a statement. "In 2010 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives."

GAO Says Motorcycle Crashes Cost $16 Billion


Bart Madson 

Managing Editor


Bashing away at an MCUSA keyboard for more than half a decade, Madson lends his scribbling input on everything from bike reviews to industry features and motorcycle racing reports.


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports the annual cost of motorcycle crashes totals $16 billion. The GAO findings, published in a November report for congressional committees, sourced data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as other government agencies. It also consulted with officials from 16 states, and conducted interviews with industry organizations, including the AMA and MSF. The report recommends that Congress allow more flexibility for states to use NHTSA funding, which is currently restricted to only motorcycle training and motorist awareness.


(Download the full 65-page GAO Motorcycle Safety Report in PDF)


The GAO's $16 billion annual cost was tallied for motorcycle accidents in the year 2010. Approximately 95,000 motorcycle accidents occurred that year, with 4423 fatalities. The report projects costs, adjusted for inflation, from an earlier 2002 study by NHTSA, which analyzed accidents in the year 2000.


Medical costs accounted for only 18% of the $16 billion total. The biggest contributor was "loss of market productivity," the wages lost from accident victims, reckoned at 44%. The associated factor of "loss of household productivity" was 14%.


Fatalities on average incur $1.2 million in costs. However, the most severe non-fatal accidents can be even more expensive. The GAO report estimates injuries resulting in total incapacitation, like severe brain injury, average $1.4 million.


The GAO report sites an NHTSA estimate that three-quarters of the costs of motorcycle vehicle crashes are born by society, largely through medical and insurance payments. The GAO also claims that true costs likely exceed its $16 billion figure, stating: "accurately determining the full costs is difficult because some-such as long-term medical costs and intangible costs related to emotional pain and suffering-are difficult to measure. Thus, the full costs of motorcycle crashes are likely higher than our estimate."


Reason for GAO Study


The GAO states three reasons for its report, to review: "(1) What is known about the cost of motorcycle crashes; (2) The factors that contribute to motorcycle crashes and fatalities, and strategies states are pursuing to address these factors; and (3) The extent to which NHTSA assists states in pursuing strategies that address these factors."


The agency cites familiar NHTSA stats regarding the inherent increased dangers of motorcycle riding, particularly mortality rates. Motorcycles are 3% of registered vehicles but account for 15% of fatalities, with riders 30 times more likely to die in an accident. The GAO report also notes that non-fatal crashes are typically more severe for motorcyclists.


Helmet Issue


The GAO report acknowledges several contributing factors to motorcycle accidents, like alcohol, speeding, rider training and motorist awareness. However, it determines that universal helmet laws are the most effective means for lowering fatality rates. The report states that: "laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven to be effective in reducing fatalities" and goes on to clarify that "lack of helmet use, does not affect the likelihood of a crash but increases the risk of a fatality when a crash occurs."


The report cites several studies supporting these safety claims, stating that helmet use reduces fatalities from 34-39%. The GAO report also claims 1550 lives were saved by wearing helmets in 2010, and it notes the NHTSA claim that helmets reduce the likelihood of severe brain injury by 41-69%.


While the GAO report clearly advocates universal helmet laws, it acknowledges this is not a feasible strategy to implement, with only 19 states enforcing them. The report notes the last 10 years have seen such laws repealed, specifying Michigan as the most recent state to ditch a universal helmet law. Instead the GAO stresses promotion of voluntary helmet use. It also suggests states with active helmet laws enforce DOT-approved helmet use.


GAO Recommendations


The GAO report recommends that Congress offers more flexibility to states in the use of NHTSA safety grant money, which is currently restricted to only motorcyclist training and motorist awareness programs. The report states: "Congress should consider expanding the strategies for which NHTSA's motorcyclist safety grants can be used to give states more flexibility in how to use these funds."


It goes on to explain: "Congress has allowed these funds to be used for motorcyclist training and motorist awareness efforts only. However, major studies on motorcycle safety issues have recommended a range of additional strategies for reducing crashes and fatalities, some of which NHTSA has identified as a high priority for states to pursue. These strategies include increasing helmet use and motorcyclist safety awareness, and educating police about motorcycle safety in order to strengthen enforcement. NHTSA and state officials noted that expanding the allowable uses for the grants would better enable states to use such strategies."


The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), one of the agencies interviewed by the GAO for its report, has issued a press release in support of the GAO recommendation for more flexibility on the use of NHSTA funds, stating the "GHSA supports a comprehensive approach to motorcycle safety, and we commend GAO for its recognition of the need for this strategy. We urge Congress to incorporate this change during the next transportation reauthorization."


The AMA has lobbied against the use of federal funds for such efforts as motorcycle-only checkpoints and opposes universal helmet laws. It has yet to issue a statement regarding the GAO report.



New NHTSA Analysis Shows 2011 Traffic Fatalities Declined by Nearly Two Percent 


Contact: Karen Aldana, 202-366-9550 |


Highway deaths fell to lowest level in more than six decades, down 26 percent since 2005


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a new analysis indicating that highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949 and a 1.9 percent decrease from the previous year. The updated 2011 data announced today show the historic downward trend in recent years continued through last year and represent a 26 percent decline in traffic fatalities overall since 2005.


"The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction."


While Americans drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, the nearly two percent drop in roadway deaths significantly outpaced the corresponding 1.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. In addition, updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) information released today shows 2011 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010. Other key statistics include:

  • Fatalities declined by 4.6 percent for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
  • Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010.
  • Fatalities increased among large truck occupants (20 percent), pedalcyclists (8.7 percent), pedestrians (3.0 percent), and motorcycle riders (2.1 percent). NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on the large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in fatalities in 2011.
  • The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011 from 3,267 in 2010, an increase of 1.9 percent. NHTSA believes this increase can be attributed in part to increased awareness and reporting.

An estimated 387,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes, a seven percent decline from the estimated 416,000 people injured in such crashes in 2010. Thirty-six states experienced reductions in overall traffic fatalities, led by Connecticut (100 fewer fatalities), North Carolina (93 fewer), Tennessee (86 fewer), Ohio (64 fewer) and Michigan (53 fewer).


"In the past several decades, we've seen remarkable improvements in both the way motorists behave on our roadways and in the safety of the vehicles they drive, and we're confident that NHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program and nationwide collaborations like 'Click It or Ticket' and 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' have played a key role in making our roads safer," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Even as we celebrate the progress we've made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year."


>> View the latest 2011 FARS data

Stay connected with NHTSA via: | | |

NHTSA report shows distracted driving related accidents in decline


By John Goreham


Campaigns against distracted driving are all the rage, but according to the facts, shown by NHTSA, we are not seeing an increase in distracted driving crashes involving deaths and injuries overall.


Watching the daily news one would get the impression that cell phones and texting cause most accidents and the rate of those accidents involving injury is dramatically on the rise. However, both of those conclusions are wrong based on the facts gathered and reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, distracted driving accidents, which is the accident category that cell phone and texting related crashes fall under, are declining, not increasing. A close look at the facts reveals some interesting truths that don't square well with the industry that has sprung up to proselytize against using our smart phones in the car. A recent article here in Torque News about distracted driving deaths created a wave of reader reaction with much of the feedback saying that deaths were not the problem, it was the dramatic increase in cell phone related accidents that was the point.


Distracted Driving Accidents Facts

According to the 2011 data released by NHTSA this week, the rate of accidents with injuries caused by distracted driving declined from 2010 to 2011. The decline was not small, but rather about seven percent. In 2011 the number of people injured in distracted driving accidents was 387,000. This is down from 416,000 injured by all types of distracted driving in 2010. Deaths did uptick in this category according to this report rising from 3,267 to 3,331, which is a 1.9 percent increase, and less statistically notable, though every death is a tragedy. According to the report summary "NHTSA believes this increase can be attributed in part to increased awareness and reporting." About 90% of all deaths related to vehicles have nothing to do with distracted driving according to NHTSA. Cell phones, and similar related causes of accidents, are a sub-set of the ten percent of accidents involving distraction.


Government Focus

Despite this, in his comments on the new report Ray Lahood, US transportation secretary again lists distracted driving as an important area for our resources to focus on saying "The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways. As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction." It is interesting our Transportation Secretary did not mention any focus on motorcycle deaths, which are both higher in overall fatalities (at 4,302 in 2011) and also increasing at a rate faster than the rate of traffic deaths due to distracted driving. Nonetheless, the drum continues to be beaten that this is a major problem. Thank goodness that drunk driving is included in the focus. Drunks killed a third of all the people who died on roadways this year, as they have done in almost every recent year, and they kill more than three times as many people each year than the entire distracted driving category does (over 10,000 compared to about 3,200).


House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee 


  • Chairing the House T&I Committee will be Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA/9), son of former House T&I Chairman Bud Shuster and a strong transportation advocate. A conservative known for working across the aisle, Shuster has said he's open to considering nearly every approach for averting transportation's 'fiscal cliff' including raising the gas tax, expanding tolling, using proceeds from energy production to fund transportation, and exploring a mileage-based user fee. Taking a "don't rule anything out approach", Shuster said "We've got to figure out a way to finance the system and it needs to be done in a fiscally sound way, not borrowing a bunch of money and spending money we don't have." Shuster has defended the federal role in transportation, citing Adam Smith, the Constitution, and a precedent of Republican leadership in transportation including the transcontinental railroad, Panama Canal and Interstate Highway System which were all pioneered by Republican presidents. Shuster spoke at ITS America's Congressional Roundtable last December and has been a strong ITS advocate. For a good profile on Chairman-elect Shuster, check out today's Politico article titled "All eyes on Bill Shuster, new transportation chairman". Bloomberg News has also published a couple interesting articles about Shuster and the transportation financing debate, which are online here and here.
  • Shuster has announced several key appointments to the T&I Committee staff next year including Chief of Staff Chris Bertram, who currently serves as Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and CFO at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Chris was previously a senior staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee and has served at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, and as Staff Director for the House T&I Subcommittee on Highway and Transit. Steve Martinko, who currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director in Shuster's personal office, will move to the T&I Committee where he will serve as the Committee's Deputy Chief of Staff. Jim Tymon will continue as Senior Advisor and Staff Director for the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, and Jennifer Hall will remain on the Committee as General Counsel. See here for the official announcement.
  • While Shuster has not yet announced who will chair the T&I Subcommittees, the slate of Republican Committee members has been finalized and includes the following new Members (all of whom are freshmen except for Webster): Steve Daines (MT), Rodney Davis (IL), Thomas Massie (KY), Mark Meadows (NC), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Scott Perry (PA), Trey Radel (FL), Tom Rice (SC), Daniel Webster (FL) and Roger Williams (TX). These appointments reflect a number of current T&I Members who are leaving including Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA) and Chuck Fleischmann (TN) who are forced to give up their T&I seats for an appointment on the House Appropriations Committee. Members selected to serve on Appropriations and other "A" committee are typically forced to step down from other committee assignments. This is also the case for Randy Hultgren (IL), a strong ITS and public transit advocate who is leaving T&I for the Financial Services Committee, and James Lankford, who will chair the Republican Policy Committee. Several Republican Members were defeated including Chip Cravaack (MN), a vocal opponent of mileage-based user fees who defeated former T&I Chairman Jim Oberstar for his seat in 2010.
  • Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV/3) has been selected by the Democratic Caucus to serve a second term as Ranking Member of the T&I Committee. Rahall has said it will take a bit longer to name the Democratic subcommittee leaders and fill the nine committee seats left open by the departures of Jerry Costello (IL) and Heath Shuler (NC) who are retiring, Mazie Hirono (HI) who was elected to the Senate, Bob Filner (CA) who was elected mayor of San Diego, and Russ Carnahan (MO), Jason Altmire (PA), Tim Holden (PA), Leonard Boswell (IA) and Laura Richardson (CA) who were defeated in the primary or general elections. Democrats will receive one additional seat on the committee due to a net gain by the party in the 2012 Congressional election. This seat will be filled by former T&I Committee member John Garamendi (D-CA) who was forced to drop off the Committee after Democratic losses in the 2010 election reduced the majority-to-minority committee ratios.


Senate Commerce Committee



  • Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will continue to chair the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the safety, freight, research and technology provisions of the surface transportation bill in addition to rail, aviation and maritime issues. Rockefeller will also be working with a new Ranking Republican, Senator John Thune (R-SD), following the retirement of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who was next in line to take over the Committee slot, recently announced his retirement to lead The Heritage Foundation in a move welcomed by many stakeholders who view Thune as more collegial and someone who can work across the aisle to solve tough legislative challenges.
  • While transportation watchers continue to speculate on Secretary LaHood's future, some other notable positions have recently been announced at U.S. DOT including Kenneth Leonard, who has been selected as the new Director of the ITS Joint Program Office, and Caitlin Hughes Rayman, who will lead the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Freight Management and Operations. We look forward to working with both Ken and Caitlin in their new capacities.




The intent here is to provide you with marketing materials and tools that you can use and distribute to meet your local needs and objectives in support of your occupant protection initiatives when not engaged in high visibility enforcement (HVE), and they all carry the social norming message to Buckle Up America. Every trip. Every time.


Additional resources:

  African-American Seat Belt Toolkit

  2013 National Enforcement Mobilization (CIOT) materials

Heroes Behind The Badge

Heroes Behind The Badge in association with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) have completed our documentary film! Please check it out and help spread the word about our fellow Law Enforcement heroes! Please share with your  staff, friends, email list, and Facebook page!    Released October 2012! (Just written into statewide policy to be shown in all academies and training in Texas!)


Watch the film's trailer in the link below:  All the fallen from 2011 will be mentioned in the documentary.




NLEOMF Trailer & DVD/Blu-ray Order Link:


Heroes Behind The Badge on Facebook:  (Please "Like and Share"!)


Heroes Behind The Badge Website:



Recent screenings of Heroes Behind the Badge at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in San Diego, and the National FBI Citizens Academy conference in Denver were huge hits with countless endorsements and recommendations. See some of the comments below:



Here is what people are saying about Heroes Behind the Badge:

"I am a Deputy Sheriff. The movie brought tears to my eyes."

"HBTB made LEO's feel appreciated, respected and recognized for the dangerous job we do."

"If this doesn't touch the core of your emotion of the life and danger of an officer I'm not sure what will."

"This film touched my heart. There wasn't a dry eye in the house tonight."

"I believe that many more people need to see and hear this message."

"It made me think about how much unselfish work police officers do."

"Profound, poignant, personal. Must be seen by all concerned citizens."

"HBTB brings the self sacrifice and commitment to the for front and reminds us of our duty to support our protectors."

"I wasn't expecting the emotions that welled up while viewing this film."

"This was a HARD film to watch but its a very important story that needs to be told."

"It humanized officers and their families in a very real way."

"Riveting, revealing, realistic, emotional, impactful."

"This is a full box of Kleenex movie."

"Exceptionally insightful into the sacrifices we tend to take for granted."

"About time we recognized our Heroes."


"Thank you for opening my mind. I can never take a police officer for granted again."



Bill Erfurth, President