Impaired Driving

An estimated 1,318 motor vehicle fatalities in Tribal areas from 2010-2014 involved an impaired driver. Among these fatalities are 1,168 involving a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 and another 150 fatalities involving a driver with BAC between 0.01 and 0.07.   For tribal areas, 40% of fatalities involved a driver impaired by alcohol with a BAC of at least 0.01. In comparison, 36% of fatal crashes during 2010-2014 in the United States overall are reported to involve a driver impaired by alcohol with a BAC of at least 0.01 (NHTSA, 2015).

Nationally, use of drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are identified in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths in the United States but test results were only available for 66% of cases in the studied crash data (NHTSA, 2010).  Data on the involvement of drugs in fatal crashes in Tribal areas is not available.  Anecdotally, if drug abuse is a factor then alcohol is typically also involved.  Police officers often do not test for drug levels if alcohol impairment is also a factor.   In addition, there are a wide variety of drugs and many require special equipment or a unique test to identify the suspected drug.  Not all police departments are equipped with the necessary training, equipment, and tests to cover all controlled substances. Despite the unavailability of data, law enforcement officers often discuss the involvement of controlled substances as a growing problem on reservations based on their experience.


Tribal Governments can:

  • Establish and fully enforce existing laws that address the prevention of impaired driving. These include:
    • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 limit laws;
    • Minimum legal drinking age laws;
      • Zero tolerance laws for drivers younger than 21 years old; and
      • Drug impaired driving.
  • Authorize sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints can reduce alcohol-related crash deaths by 9 percent.
  • Require ignition interlock use for people convicted of drinking and driving, starting with their first offense.
  • Restrict nighttime driving for teens to no later than 10 p.m. for at least the first 6 months of licensed driving.
  • Restrict new drivers to no more than one passenger during the first 6 months of licensed driving.
  • Ensure that alternatives to driving and walking are available for those leaving drinking establishments.
  • Explore Community Guide supported strategies that may lead to a reduction in binge drinking.

Local health professionals can:

  • Conduct screening and brief interventions for risky behaviors, such as using alcohol and drugs, and driving while impaired.
  • Educate patients about the dangers of drinking and driving.
  • Assess prescription drug controls using the guidelines provided in the National Safety Council publication “Prescription Nation: Addressing America's Drug Epidemic” (

Law Enforcement can:

  • Combine seat belt, impairment, and nighttime enforcement efforts.
  • Publicize sobriety checkpoint programs.
  • Conduct sobriety checkpoints.
  • Maintain strong enforcement efforts.
  • Coordinate enforcement efforts with education campaigns.
  • Coordinate with Tribal council to ensure leadership support of enforcement campaigns.
  • Ensure police officers are adequately trained to identify and test alcohol and drug impaired drivers.


A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices
NHTSA Impaired Driving Resources Website
 Oklahoma ENDUI Website
CDC Impaired Driving Website
NHTSA, Countermeasures that Work, 8th Edition Download
CDC Community Guide, Motor Vehicle Injuries Website
CDC Roadway to Safer Tribal Communities Toolkit Website
 National Safety Council, Prescription Nation: Addressing America’s Drug Epidemic Website


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