RECOGNIZED AS NEW YORK’S PREMIER CENTER FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY RESEARCH & EVALUATION
ITSMR’s services include the conduct of activities and studies related to major state initiatives in highway safety
and other matters of concern and importance to highway safety organizations.
Current Research Notes, Reports and Surveys on relevant topics are available below.
Impaired driving involves the use of alcohol, drugs (legal or illegal) or a combination of alcohol and drugs. This behavior puts drivers, passengers and other road users at risk and is a violation of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL 1192). At the request of the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), ITSMR has completed a variety of studies on impaired driving issues. Abstracts and full reports on this topic are below.
— Aggravated DWI (ADWI) —
New York State has historically taken an aggressive approach to the problem of impaired driving through legislation, enhanced and innovative enforcement efforts and increased public information and education initiatives. Success is evidenced by the reduction in the number of alcohol-related fatalities over the past three decades. In 2006, New York State implemented its Aggravated DWI Law (ADWI), providing stiffer fines and penalties for drivers with a BAC at or above the 0.18 level. This study examined how well the law is functioning today and provides information to the state’s Advisory Council on Impaired Driving to support its efforts to reduce impaired driving.
19%-20% of drivers arrested under TSLED each year, 2014-2018, had a BAC > 0.18.
93%-94% of the drivers with a BAC > 0.18 were charged with ADWI.
29%-32% of the approximately 6,000 drivers charged with ADWI each year, 2014-2018, were convicted of ADWI.
ITSMR recently completed a study on the issue of BAC testing rates and BAC levels, focusing on two distinct groups of drivers: 1) drivers ticketed for alcohol-impaired driving and 2) drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes. The study examined the BAC testing rates and levels of the drivers in each of these two groups and provides information by geographic location, driver gender and driver age.
Approximately three-quarters of the drivers in each of these two groups had their BAC level tested.
Of the drinking drivers in fatal crashes who were tested, drivers ages 50-59 had the highest average BAC (0.19%), whereas of the drivers ticketed and tested for alcohol-impaired driving, drivers ages 30 and above had the highest BAC (0.15%).
In January 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that of the more than 37,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, 28% were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. NHTSA further estimated that 22% of weekend/nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs. Because of the concerns raised by these findings, ITSMR conducted a study on the involvement of alcohol and/or drugs in fatal and personal injury crashes on New York roadways. Focusing on the five-year period, 2013-2017, the study involved the examination of trends over time with regard to impaired driving crashes, including the characteristics of the crash event and the demographic characteristics of the drivers involved.
39% of the motor vehicle-related fatalities in 2017 occurred in impaired driving crashes, down from 42% in 2015.
32% of the impaired drivers in 2017 were ages 21-29; 25% were ages 30-39.
Based on an awareness that the use of both prescription drugs and illegal drugs continues to expand, ITSMR recently completed two studies to examine the extent to which driving under the influence of drugs is a problem in New York. These studies focus on 1) the number and demographic characteristics of drivers that have been ticketed for drug-impaired driving on New York’s roadways during the five-year period, 2011-2015 and 2) the extent to which fatal and personal injury crashes on NY roadways involve drugs, and the key characteristics of those crashes and the drug-involved drivers involved, over the five-year period 2012-2016.
Number of drivers ticketed for drug-impaired driving is continuing on a general upward trend, increasing 8% between 2011 and 2015 (3,970 vs. 4,282).
Number of drug-related F&PI crashes increased 21% between 2012 and 2016 (864 vs. 1,041).
In 2016, ITSMR conducted a study on the issue of recidivism among New York State drivers convicted of alcohol-impaired driving offenses. The study involved analyses of driver license data to determine the recidivism rate for drivers convicted of alcohol-impaired driving in 2012 and 2015 and the rates by geographic region, driver age and driver gender. The study was undertaken to update a spring 2011 study that showed the rate of recidivism dropped from 29% in 1999 to 22% in 2009.
Recidivism rates continued to decrease between 2009 and 2015, dropping from 22% in 2009 to 21% in 2012 and 20% in 2015.
20% of the recidivist drivers in 2015 were women, up from 20% in 2009.
26% of the recidivist drivers convicted in 2015 were sentenced to jail, up substantially from 11% in 2009.
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. ITSMR conducted separate studies of each component. Conducted in 2011, one study examined drivers convicted of ADWI/Child in Vehicle for the first 20 months under the law. The second study, conducted in 2015, examined whether the component of the law that expanded the use of ignition interlock devices is effective in reducing the incidence of impaired driving.
30% of the drivers convicted of ADWI/Child in Vehicle were repeat offenders (one or more prior VTL 1192 convictions in the previous ten years) and 17% were involved in a crash in conjunction with their arrest for ADWI/Child in Vehicle.
27% of the 86,000 drivers convicted of alcohol-impaired driving between August 2010 and June 2015 and ordered to install an ignition interlock device actually had the device installed.
In 2009-2010, ITSMR conducted a major study on drinking and driving in New York State, The purpose of the study was to establish an estimate of how many motorists drink and drive and how often, and what would influence drinking drivers to change their behavior. The study involved a telephone survey of New York drivers and focus groups of drivers convicted of drinking and driving.
Approximately 85,000 incidents of drinking and driving occur every day on New York roadways and approximately 1 out of 500 result in an arrest.
There is an extremely high frequency of drinking and driving among convicted offenders; their perception of risk of arrest for DWI is low.
84% of drivers surveyed thought that drivers should be evaluated for a serious drinking problem after the first offense; 37% felt an interlock should be required after the second offense.
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.
— Young Drivers on NY Roadways —
Although crashes, fatalities and injuries involving drivers ages 16-20 have declined in recent years, young drivers continue to be overrepresented in crashes (4% of licensed drivers vs. 8% of drivers involved in fatal and personal injury crashes). Covering the years 2013-2017, the study discusses characteristics of young driver crashes and tickets issued to these drivers.
113 persons were killed in crashes involving young drivers in 2017, down 19% from 2013.
26% of the traffic tickets issued to young drivers in 2017 were for speeding violations, compared to 19% of the tickets issued to all drivers.
Young drivers involved in F & PI crashes are more likely to engage in unsafe or illegal behavior such as following too closely, inattention or distraction, failure to yield, speeding, and not wearing seat belts.
Surveys enable researchers to capture a variety of data that might not be otherwise be available from traditional data sources. Surveys can focus on collecting data on the knowledge, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors related to specific topics of interest. Over the years, ITSMR has developed and conducted a wide variety of survey efforts, including seat belt observational surveys and DMV driver behavior surveys, as well as periodic statewide surveys on a variety of highway safety topics.
— New York State Seat Belt Survey —
Since 1984, ITSMR has conducted New York State’s annual seat belt observational study. All observational surveys have been conducted using a NHTSA-approved design. The New York statewide seat belt observational survey conducted in June 2019 shows that the current seat belt use rate is at an historical high of 94%.
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. Survey results 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.
Key Findings of the 2019 Survey:
37% of the respondents reported they “always” or “most of the time” drive more than 5 mph over the speed limit.
48% reported they send or receive text messages while driving and 53% reported they talk on the cell phone while driving.
98% reported that they “always or most of the time” use a seat belt when driving. ——–⇓——–
Results of the 2019 survey with respect to its questions regarding Impaired Driving is available on the Fact Sheets tab.
Because of the generally upward trends in both motorcycle licenses and registrations and the fact that motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to serious or fatal injury when a crash occurs, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has funded the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research to conduct studies on motorcyclists and impaired driving. The findings of these studies should be useful to the state’s alcohol and highway safety community in the development of countermeasures that address the issues.
— Motorcyclists and Impaired Driving —
In 2013, ITSMR conducted a study on motorcyclists and impaired driving that focused on two aspects of the issue: 1) crashes involving impaired motorcyclists and 2) tickets issued to motorcyclists for impaired driving. The study focused on fatal and personal injury crashes involving impaired motorcyclists during the five-year period, 2008-2012 and on tickets issued to motorcyclists for impaired driving during this same five-year period. The characteristics of the crashes were examined as well as the demographic characteristics of the motorcyclists involved. Similarly, the characteristics of the motorcyclists ticketed were also examined.
27% of the fatal MC crashes over the five years, 2008-2012, were alcohol-related; 98% of the motorcyclists involved were men and 31% were ages 40-49.
Less than 1% of the drivers arrested for impaired driving during the five years, 2008-2012, were motorcyclists.
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable roadway users and improving the safety of pedestrians is a priority for New York State. Similar to other program safety areas, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has funded the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research to conduct studies on pedestrian safety.
— Crashes Involving Pedestrians —
Pedestrian safety continues to be a serious concern, with pedestrians accounting for 3 out of 10 fatalities on New York roadways. Covering the years, 2012-2016, the study examined a number variables related to pedestrian crashes, including environmental characteristics, alcohol involvement, crash contributing factors and pedestrian actions.
Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 31% of all traffic fatalities in 2016, up from 27% in 2012.
46% of the pedestrian fatalities occurred in New York City.
47% of the pedestrians killed were ages 55 and older.
Recognizing the safety concerns associated with the use of a cell phone while driving, New York became the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The law was effective November 1, 2001. New York enacted further legislation that prohibited text messaging for all drivers, effective November 1, 2009.
— Crashes Involving Cell Phone Use —
This study examined the effects of cell phone use and other driver distractions on highway safety. Focusing on the five-year period, 2013-2017, the study involved the analyses of crash and ticket data and a survey of driver behavior with respect to cell phone use. The objectives of these analyses were to determine the status of cell phone use and texting among drivers, the extent to which distracted driving is cited as a factor in crashes, the level of enforcement of the law and public perceptions.
Less than 1% of police-reported fatal and personal injury crashes involved the use of a cell phone over the five years 2013-2017.
150 persons were killed and more than 40,000 persons were injured in crashes in 2017 that had “driver inattention/distraction” reported as a contributing factor, up from 128 fatalities and 34,000 persons injured in 2013.
Number of tickets issued for using a hand-held cell phone while driving dropped in half (207,741 in 2013 vs. 104,786 in 2017, while the number of cell phone tickets issued for texting doubled (55,458 vs. 112,529).