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Impaired driving prevention should be political priority, says NTSB chairman (12/9)

In a speech given to anti-impaired driving advocacy groups Monday, NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said that addressing the problem of impaired driving-related traffic accidents is an important safety concern that she will seek to advance as head of the nation's transportation accident investigation agency, according to an agency press release.

Speaking at an event sponsored by the Century Council and the Congressional Stop DUI Caucus, organizations dedicated to reducing impaired driving-related accidents, Chairman Hersman called on advocacy leaders to "make the problem of impaired driving, indeed highway safety generally, a political priority if we are to move the nation toward zero alcohol-related deaths."

The Safety Board has long advocated that states adopt comprehensive programs to reduce the number of impaired drivers on America's roadways, with particular emphasis on "hard core" impaired drivers (repeat offenders with a prior driving-while-intoxicated arrest or conviction within the past 10 years or offenders with a blood alcohol content [BAC] of 0.15 percent or greater). Chairman Hersman calls hard core drinking drivers "some of the most dangerous people behind the wheel" since they pose an increased risk of crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Combating "hard core drinking driving" has been on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements since 2003.

The winter holiday season brings an increase in impaired driving related traffic fatalities. Of the 3,999 highway fatalities during the 2008 winter holiday season, 1,243 of them were related to an impaired driver. President Obama, in an effort to lower these numbers and call attention to the issue, has proclaimed December "National Impaired Driving Prevention Month."

As part of this effort, today Chairman Hersman challenged all Americans to do their part to make a positive difference in addressing the impaired driving problem. "We should all be asking tough questions of ourselves: Have I played a role in enabling an impaired driver? Have I ever driven when I am impaired? What can I do to prevent even one impaired driver from getting on the road? We need to all be engaged in taking responsibility to reduce the terrible toll that impaired drivers take on our country's citizens," said Hersman.

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