Over a decade ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized that alcohol-related traffic crashes are a “leading cause of unintentional injury and deaths and a substantial contributor to health care costs in the United States.”7 There is no absolute right to drive.8 People who risk their own lives, let alone the lives of others, by driving while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs should not be allowed to drive.

General deterrence is the key to curtailing impaired driving. Deterrence is based on sustained high visibility law enforcement, coupled with swift and certain punishment. Traditionally, we—as highway safety professionals, advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other stakeholders— worked separately. Our efforts have achieved moderate success. Working together, we can do so much more.

Proven Collaborations

Intra-Disciplinary Partnerships
Stakeholders often can reap great benefits by partnering with others within their discipline. There are many examples of intra-disciplinary collaborations that work well, including:

  • Enforcement Collaboration
    Law enforcement agencies have achieved tremendous success sharing best practices and resources. Doing this leads to more effective training, sobriety check points, saturation patrols, task forces, and use of equipment. It also promotes consistency and enhances working relationships between city, county, state, and Tribal police agencies.

  • Toxicology Collaboration
    Toxicologists have joined together to form professional alliances that allow them to share knowledge, address complicated issues, and further develop their expertise.

Inter-Disciplinary Partnerships
There are numerous effective strategies and tactics that can be relied upon. All of them, however, are dependent upon public support. Accordingly, stakeholders usually can accomplish more by breaking traditional boundaries and working with other disciplines. By expanding productive partnerships and advancing collaboration, law enforcement agencies can gain vital support, amplify available resources, and share ownership for traffic safety enforcement programs and activities. The payback for expanding partnerships is well worth the investment.

There are many excellent examples of positive inter-disciplinary collaborations:

  • Enforcement/Adjudication Collaboration
    (state vehicle administrators, traffic safety resource prosecutors, local prosecutors, and judges): These professionals have worked together in many jurisdictions
    to identify paperwork issues, address workload and plea bargain issues, expand BAC testing, and improve case preparation and quality.

  • Enforcement/Community Collaboration (business leaders, community leaders, organizations, minority leaders, alcohol and drug abuse treatment and health agencies, and advocacy groups such as MADD): These professionals have collaborated to generate support for enforcement efforts, provide increased visibility during special mobilization efforts, obtain additional resources for special projects (like DUI Courts), promote prosecutor training, and establish community standards of expectations in addressing the impaired driving violator.

Strategies and Promising Practices
There are many other resources and partnerships that have been successful. For example:

  • Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors (TSRP)
    • A NHTSA priority.
    • As of 2006, there are 25 TSRPs.
    • The best TSRPs train and work with law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

  • Fatal Crash Teams (FACT teams go by different names in different jurisdictions)
    • Traffic homicide detectives and prosecutors respond as a team to all felony fatal crashes.
    • King County, Washington, and many Indiana jurisdictions employ FACT teams.

  • Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT)
    • A collaboration between the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
    • The agencies jointly investigate all fatality crashes where three or more people are killed.

  • “24/7” on-call prosecutors (general and specialized)
    • Miami-Dade County, Florida State Attorney’s Office provides “around-theclock” legal assistance to law enforcement officers and others. CRIMINAL JUSTICE COLLABORATION
    • The Harris County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office also provides around-the-clock prosecutors.

  • Tele-warrant partnerships between law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges.
    • Arizona prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and judges established a system to allow officers to quickly and easily obtain warrants to draw blood in DUI cases.

  • In some jurisdictions, prosecutors and toxicologists attend and participate in law enforcement trainings and sobriety checkpoints and do ride-a-longs. In many of these jurisdictions, law enforcement officers, in turn, participate in prosecutor trainings (see Appendix C for a listing of potential partners).

System Wide Collaborations

  • Strategic Highway Safety Planning
    Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSP) should be regularly reviewed and updated. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has encouraged all state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to engage their state highway safety offices and their state and local law enforcement in the development of the SHSP. If law enforcement executives from all levels were not involved in the original development of their state’s SHSP, they should contact their DOT and urge they be involved in any review/update process that takes place.

  • Florida’s Statewide Technical Advisory Committee on DUI Enforcement and Prosecution (TAC)
    Florida’s diverse TAC demonstrates how a system-wide collaboration can achieve tremendous change. In 1994, several stakeholders, led by the Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM) and the Florida Department of Transportation, created the Technical Review Committee to promote the use of laser speed-measuring devices in the state. The organizers welcomed law enforcement officers and prosecutors to the group. The task force was so effective that members expanded the committee’s scope to include all traffic issues and invited other stakeholders “to the table,” including representatives from the state agency regulating breath testing (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), MADD, toxicologists, and judges. They renamed the Committee the Technical Advisory Committee on DUI Enforcement and Prosecution (TAC).

    During the ensuing years, TAC created several subcommittees, including DUI Case Preparation, In- Car Video, Sobriety Checkpoints, DUI Law Update, Breath Testing, Legislative, Youth & Alcohol, and Bureau of Administrative Review and expanded to almost 30 members. The committee coordinates activities statewide by:
    • Identifying new problems and solutions;
    • Developing new legislation;
    • Monitoring case development; and
    • Promoting education and enforcement waves.
photo - WSP mobile impaired driving unit

This Washington State Patrol (WSP) Mobile Impaired Driving Unit (MIDU) was purchased and equipped through a collaborative partnership between the WSP, Washington State Traffic Safety Commission; Poulsbo RV; State Farm Insurance; and several other companies that provided equipment or other services.

The MIDU is equipped with three BAC Compact Data Masters; a dark room for DRE Evaluations; three computer work stations for officers to prepare their reports; and two prisoner holding cells.

For information regarding the MIDU, contact the WSP Impaired Driving Section at (206) 720-3018.

The committee has published manuals on case preparation and testimony, coordinated responses on all major legal challenges, and addressed numerous legislative issues.

Association Collaborations

Associations and other advocacy organizations that support improving highway safety initiatives, including reducing the incidences of driving while impaired (e.g., AAMVA, GHSA, and AAA).

Community Collaborations

  • Chamber of Commerce
    They clearly have a stake in a safe community: highway safety is good for business and tourism growth. Solicit and encourage their active partnership.

  • Community Improvement Districts (CIDs)/ Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) These private authorities are comprised of groups of property owners committed to business growth through improved quality of life issues. They have a direct interest in the safety of the community.

  • Media
    To eliminate impaired driving, we must augment our enforcement efforts with education. In order to reach every driver with our message on the dangers and consequences of impaired driving, we must use as many resources as possible. One of the most valuable resources we have available to us is the media. Television, radio, and print media reach far more people than we can ever hope to reach through safety talks and presentations. This can have a tremendous impact on our citizens and encourage them to be responsible.

Private Sector Collaborations

Strong vocal support and active participation from various segments of the private sector are critical to achieving significant reductions in impaired driving and related crashes. We must actively seek their support and participation.

Who are the stakeholders in the private sector? Support should be sought from traditional and nontraditional partners, including:

  • Advocacy Groups Advocacy groups, including state, regional, and local MADD affiliates. Don’t assume that every advocate is going to contact law enforcement; they may be waiting for our invitation.

  • Insurance Carriers In addition to corporate support, seek assistance of local agents who aggressively support highway safety issues within their coverage areas. Consider asking this group to assist with public information and education materials.

  • Advertising Seek both responsible advertising and public information assistance from advertisers who are willing to promote safe driving.

  • Automotive/Motorcycle Dealerships Encourage dealerships to sponsor safe driving campaigns, child safety seat clinics, and antiimpaired driving messages.

  • Alcohol Beverage Industry We must bring them to the table, seek their input, and help find solutions collaboratively, where possible. All levels of this industry should be involved, including the distillers, brewers, distributors, proprietors, and servers.


An identified highway safety champion must call the first meeting and serve as a catalyst. The Subcommittee recommends that stakeholders employ the following tactics and strategies:

line graph shows steady decline

  • photo - rowan incident unit
    Photo courtesy of Rowan County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Office
    Promote traffic law enforcement as a version of the “Broken Windows” theory.
    • Traffic law enforcement increases overall criminal interdiction and reduces overall crime rights via general deterrence.
      • DUI
      • Drug trafficking
      • Burglary
      • Gun possession
      • Identity theft
      • Terrorism interdiction
    • Develop a catch name/phrase.
      • For example, “Traffic with a purpose.”

  • Promote deterrence through proven programs, including:
    • Sobriety checkpoints
    • Saturation patrols
    • Roving patrols
    • Public education combined with enforcement
    • Expansion of state Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Programs
    • “Keg-buster” and other underage drinking education and enforcement programs

  • Create state and local multi-disciplinary TACs that meet regularly and address current and emerging issues.

  • Provide multi-disciplinary training that provides continuing education credits, whenever possible.

  • Online/electronic multi-disciplinary training that provides continuing education credits, whenever possible.

  • Create listserves or Yahoo groups.
    • Systems that allow for the quick, efficient, and free sharing of information.

  • Support proven prevention efforts.
    • Prevention is preferable to punishment. It’s better to prevent a fatality than prosecute the person responsible for it.

  • Support treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Engage treatment professionals.
    • Work with dedicated DUI/DWI courts.

  • Support brief screening and intervention efforts.
    • Physicians and other medical professionals who are likely to encounter impaired people (especially emergency room employees) should screen them for alcohol and/or drug problems and offer assistance.

  • Research demonstrates that the majority of injuries requiring emergency treatment are alcohol- and/or drugrelated.

  • Include multiple disciplines in major crash investigations, including law enforcement, prosecutors, hospitals (to ensure that proper samples are obtained for testing purposes), toxicologists, medical examiners, state data system recorders (to improve Fatal Analysis Reporting System [FARS] data), and others.

  • Encourage prosecutors to include arresting officers and victims in their plea negotiations.
    • When prosecutors include law enforcement officers or victims, it makes them feel like their opinions matter and improves relationships.
    • Encourage prosecutors to aggressively enforce impaired driving laws.
    • Promote a policy of not reducing charges of people who provide admissible samples registering 0.08 or above.

  • Promote court monitoring.
    • Court monitoring helps improve criminal justice proceedings.
    • When the system does not work properly (and change is not being discussed), law enforcement officers understandably become frustrated and enforcement collapses.
    • The goals of court monitoring are:
      • To compile statistics on how DUI cases are adjudicated.
      • To make those involved in the process aware there is public interest in the outcome of such cases.
      • To report compiled data to relevant entities so the system can be improved.

  • Engage minority leaders.
    • Seek their assistance in informing their constituents about pending checkpoints, mobilizations, and crackdowns.
    • Work with them on defined problems and find information-driven solutions to the problems.
    • Develop a strategy that focuses on outreach to minority youth to reduce underage drinking.
      • Increases trust and communication between law enforcement and youth).
    • As much as possible, law enforcement should work with non-profits, businesses, churches, and other organizations to provide public safety education and presentations to members of the community.
      • Builds better community relationships.
      • Encourages positive traffic safety behavior.
    • Use statistics more effectively to build relationships.
      • Develops and provides accurate, timely information about criminal traffic behavior and collision trends to officers, allowing them to act on data, not race.
      • Communicates to the community that police profile behavior, not race.
    • Work with local minority organizations for recruitment of officers from the minority communities.
      • Law enforcement must focus on recruiting officers who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

Lasting partnerships and collaborations are a proven method for sharing resources, acquiring needed assistance, and streamlining processes and important mechanisms for generating new ideas and innovative ways to use resources more efficiently.


America will have the DUI problem it chooses to have. We know how to solve the problem, but face numerous obstacles. There has been a lack of unified leadership and resolve. Public and private partnerships can resolve this deficiency. IACP, MADD, and NHTSA can and will fill the leadership void by engaging other stakeholders and working together to overcome the hurdles we face.

Some of the challenges we must overcome include:

  • Years of insufficient resources.

  • Differing leadership priorities by jurisdiction.

  • Differing needs of urban and rural jurisdictions.

  • Poorly written, loophole-ridden, or unenforceable laws.

  • A judiciary that struggles to define itself and maintain its objectivity in the face of aggressive defense attorneys.

  • An organized DUI defense bar more concerned with “winning a case” than with the carnage on our streets and highways.

  • Appellate court decisions that hinder impaired driving enforcement.

Each state and jurisdiction needs to actively identify what their hurdles to success are, develop the necessary plans to address them, establish the partnerships necessary to overcome them, implement the plans, regularly examine the results (and revise the process as required), and repeat the process.

exclamation markSumming it up…

  • Law enforcement agencies should share best practices and resources with each other to promote consistency and to enhance working relationships.

  • Inter-disciplinary partnerships can break traditional boundaries, provide broadbased support, amplify available resources, and establish shared ownership.

  • Examples of inter-disciplinary partnerships include collaboration between law enforcement and prosecutors, community organizations, and business leaders.

  • Toxicologists should collaborate by sharing knowledge, addressing complicated issues, and further developing expertise.

  • System-wide collaborations can create other opportunities, such as Strategic Highway Safety Planning efforts. Summing it up…