For more than 35 years, ITSMR has provided research and analytical support on numerous traffic safety issues, including:
Evaluation of Leandra’s Law
At the request of the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), ITSMR has conducted studies of the effectiveness of Leandra’s Law. Enacted on November 18, 2009, Leandra’s Law provides for 1) increased criminal sanctions surrounding driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs with children under the age of 16 in the car, commonly known as Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated with Child in Vehicle (ADWI/Child in Vehicle) and 2) the expanded use of ignition interlock devices, making them applicable to any person who is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony DWI.
ADWI/Child in Vehicle
In September 2011, ITSMR completed a study of the component of Leandra’s law that deals with driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs with children under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Using data from the DMV Driver License File, the primary component of the study examined drivers convicted of ADWI/Child in Vehicle (VTL 1192.2ab) for the first 20 months under the law (December 18, 2009 – August 31, 2011). Key findings included:
- 81% of the drivers convicted on ADWI/Child in Vehicle violations were convicted in the Upstate region of New York, which is comprised of the 55 counties north of New York City.
- 63% of the convicted drivers were men; 34% were 40-49 years of age.
- 30% of the convicted drivers were repeat offenders (one or more prior VTL 1192 convictions in the previous ten years).
- 17% of the convicted drivers were involved in a crash in conjunction with their arrest for ADWI/Child in Vehicle.
- 92% of the drivers convicted had the restriction INTERLOCK DEVICE entered on their driver license record.
Expanded Use of Ignition Interlock Devices
ITSMR has conducted a study with funding from the GTSC to examine the impact of the component of the law that expands the use of ignition interlock devices. The primary objective of the study is to determine whether the expansion of the ignition interlock sanction is effective in reducing the incidence of impaired driving, evidenced by reductions in impaired driving crashes, arrests and recidivism. The research design includes two groups of drivers: 1) a study group consisting of drivers who were sentenced to ignition interlock under Leandra’s Law and 2) a comparison group consisting of drivers who were convicted of DWI before Leandra’s Law went into effect. The analysis plan focuses on determining whether convicted drinking drivers who have been on an ignition interlock are less likely to recidivate than convicted drinking drivers who have not been on an interlock. The study was completed and a report prepared for the GTSC in 2015.
Motorcyclists & Impaired Driving
Because the trends in both motorcycle licenses and registrations are continuing upward, ITSMR is updating an earlier study on motorcyclists and impaired driving. Funded by the GTSC, the earlier study examined data for the five-year period 2008-2012 with regard to both impaired driving motorcycle (MC) crashes and tickets issued for motorcyclists for impaired driving. The updated study is focusing on the five years from 2010 to 2014 and will be completed in December 2015.
Motorcycle Fatal & Personal Injury (F&PI) Crashes (2008-2012): Study Results
- 27% of the fatal MC crashes were alcohol-related
- 84% of the alcohol-related F&PI MC crashes occurred Upstate
- 98% of the impaired motorcyclists were men; 31% were ages 40-49
- 47% of the impaired motorcyclists had “unsafe speed” reported as a contributing factor in the crash.
.Motorcyclists Ticketed for Impaired Driving (2008-2012): Study Results
- 36% of the impaired motorcyclists were also ticketed for a speed-related violation
- 10% of the impaired motorcyclists were also ticketed for wearing a federally unapproved helmet or no helmet at all
- 96% of the motorcyclists were convicted of impaired driving. ….
Drugs & Driving
The issue of drugged driving continues to be a serious concern to the GTSC and the state’s Advisory Council on Impaired Driving. To address this concern, the GTSC is funding ITSMR to update two of its earlier studies on drugs and driving, one on drug involvement in fatal and personal injury crashes and one on tickets issued for drug-impaired driving. Key findings from these two studies are presented below.
Drug Involvement in Fatal & Personal Injury Crashes (2007-2012): Study Results
- 15%-16% of the state’s motor vehicle fatalities occurred in drug-related crashes.
- 68% of the drug-involved drivers were men and 31% were 21-29 years old.
- 16% of the drug-involved drivers also had “alcohol involvement” reported as a contributing factor in the crash.
- 15% of the drug-involved drivers also had “unsafe speed’ reported as a contributing factor.
Drivers Ticketed for Drug-Impaired Driving (2007-2011): Study Results
- The number of drivers ticketed for drug-impaired driving increased by 20% between 2007 and 2011 (3,310 vs. 3,970).
- 24% of the ticketed drivers in 2010 and 2011 were women, up from 17% in 2007.
- The largest proportion of drivers ticketed for drug-impaired driving each year were in the 21-29 year age group (36%-37%).
- 26% were also ticketed for alcohol-impaired driving and 14% were also ticketed for speeding.
BAC Reporting & BAC Levels
Because of questions in recent years as to whether BAC levels are dropping among alcohol-impaired drivers, as well as questions related to the level of BAC reporting, ITSMR is conducting a study to examine both of these issues. The study focuses on two distinct groups of alcohol-impaired drivers: 1) drivers arrested for alcohol-impaired driving and 2) alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes. With an anticipated completion date of spring 2016, the key research questions being addressed for each of these two groups include:
- What proportion of drivers had a BAC reported in each of the five years, 2010-2014? Has the proportion changed over those five years?
- Of the drivers for whom a BAC was reported, what was the average BAC in each of the five years, 2010-2014? Has the average BAC changed over those five years?
- Of the drivers for whom a BAC was reported, what characteristics (i.e., age and gender of driver, county of arrest) are associated with the drivers in the following five BAC groups: 1) 0.01-0.05, 2) 0.06-0.07, 3) 0.08-0.14, 4) 0.15-0.18 and 5) 0.19+? Have those characteristics changed over time?
Young Drivers & Traffic Safety
Whether it is due to inexperience or a tendency toward greater risk-taking behavior, young drivers comprise an especially vulnerable group of drivers. Devastating fatal crashes involving young drivers continue to heighten awareness of the need to focus attention on teen driving issues. With funding from the GTSC, ITSMR conducts studies on young drivers and their involvement in crashes, including impaired driving crashes. The studies are also designed to determine the extent to which young drivers are arrested for engaging in a number of different risky driving behaviors. These behaviors include impaired driving, cell phone use and texting, and speeding.
ITSMR has developed and conducted a wide variety of survey efforts, including seat belt observational surveys and DMV driver behavior surveys. In addition, ITSMR periodically conducts statewide telephone surveys on a variety of topics, including impaired driving, occupant restraints, distracted driving and other driver behaviors.
NY Statewide Seat Belt Observational Survey
Since 1984, ITSMR has conducted New York State’s annual seat belt observational survey. All observational surveys have been conducted using a NHTSA-approved design. Observational surveys of motorcycle helmet use and distracted driving behaviors including cell phone use and texting are also conducted periodically. The statewide seat belt observational survey conducted in June 2017 shows that the current seat belt use rate is at an historical high of 93%.
NYS DMV Driver Behavior Survey
In compliance with the NHTSA requirement that states collect information on driver behaviors, attitudes and awareness of traffic safety issues on an annual basis, ITSMR has conducted surveys of customers in selected DMV offices since 2010. The survey instrument includes a series of questions on drinking and driving; speeding; distracted driving, including cell phone use and texting; and seat belt use. Key findings of the 2016 DMV driver behavior survey show that:
- 11% of the respondents reported driving a motor vehicle within two hours after drinking alcoholic beverages during the past 30 days,
- 38% reported that they “always” or “most of the time” drive more than 5 mph over the speed limit,
- 51% reported that they send or receive text messages while driving,
- 58% reported that they talk on the cell phone while driving, and
- 95% reported that they always (87%) or “most of the time” (8%) use a seat belt when driving.
A complete set of the results from the DMV driver behavior surveys are included in the Annual Report submitted to NHTSA by the end of the calendar year. For a copy of the annual report, contact the GTSC.