Combating Drunk Driving
BACKGROUNDAs District Attorney of Nassau County, NY, Kathleen was dubbed “the state’s toughest DWI prosecutor” by the New York Daily News, and her nationally-recognized efforts to combat drunk driving led to statewide changes in DWI law and Long Island’s first DWI-related murder convictions. In 2008, CBS's 60 Minutes profiled Kathleen's work to reduce drunk-driving, sparking a renewed national debate on local law enforcement's role in drunk driving prevention, prosecution, and education.
Under Kathleen’s leadership, Nassau County earned one of the highest conviction rates in the state for DWI crimes – rising from 28th among New York’s 62 counties before Kathleen took office to fourth in 2013, and first among counties with at least 500 convictions. In addition to tough enforcement and aggressive prosecution, Kathleen also worked to prevent drunk driving by developing an innovative education program that reached more than 50,000 high school students.
In 2014, Kathleen received the Governors Highway Safety Association’s highest honor, the James J. Howard Highway Safety Trailblazer Award, and in 2015 Kathleen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Combating drunk driving remains one of Kathleen’s top priorities in Congress. While we’ve made tremendous progress on reducing DWI-related fatalities over the past three decades, we are still losing an average of more than 10,000 lives every year because of drunk driving. Kathleen knows that we can and must do more, and she is working to craft legislative solutions that will keep moving that number down to zero.
Aggressive prosecution and tough enforcement strategies are critically important, but the best way to prevent drunk driving fatalities is to prevent anyone who is over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from operating a vehicle. New technological developments have tremendous potential to accomplish that. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Association and the world’s leading automakers, is working to develop advanced breath-based and touch-based technologies that prevent a car from driving if the driver’s BAC is over the legal limit of .08 percent. Unlike a breathalyzer or ignition interlock device, this technology does not require the driver to breathe into a tube – sensors instantaneously measure the driver’s BAC by responding to naturally exhaled breath and the touch of fingertips. NHTSA and its partners are continuing to develop and test the prototypes to ensure they are completely accurate and reliable.
In December, 2015, Kathleen introduced the End Drunk Driving Act, which requires this technology to be equipped in all new cars sold in the U.S. within 10 years, at which point the prototypes are expected to be fully developed and ready for commercial use. The legislation also significantly boosts funding for the DADDS program to help meet the 10 year deadline, providing $76 million over the next five years and a total of $176 million over 10 years.Read more about the End Drunk Driving Act here.