Los Angeles DUI and the NHTSA

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Impaired driving is a concern nationwide, with driving under the influence traffic collisions causing thousands of fatalities every year. As a result, the United States government has taken a great interest in DUI issues and how these incidents can be reduced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) is the agency responsible for studying DUI statistics and making recommendations which are often implemented by individual states.

The NHTSA is part of the Department of Transportation and conducts studies regarding DUI driving patterns and incidents. The NHTSA was formed in 1970 after the public demanded federal oversight on automobile safety. The NHTSA continues to conduct high-profile investigations relating to auto safety issues.

During the 1980’s, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) demanded that the government become involved in what they claimed was an epidemic of DUI incidents and fatalities affecting the nation. The NHTSA took a more active role in gathering data relating to DUI arrests and fatalities, conducting studies and making DUI policy recommendations that are widely followed.

The NHTSA played a crucial role in developing standardized field sobriety tests that are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. In 1977, researchers from the NHTSA used 238 volunteers to test the various sobriety tests being used; including the one-leg stand test, the walk and turn test, tracing using a pencil and paper and the nystagmus test. After extensively evaluating these tests under controlled conditions, the NHTSA adopted the one leg stand test, the walk and turn test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test for use by law enforcement officers in the field. The NHTSA provided objective standards in evaluating these tests and these tests are now widely used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. While an officer during a traffic stop may also have the DUI suspect complete other field sobriety tests, it is important to remember that only the one leg stand, walk and turn and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests are specifically approved by the NHTSA.

The NHTSA has been integral in compiling national statistics regarding DUI fatalities and DUI incidents. The NHTSA has recognized a nationwide decrease in the amount of DUI fatalities and collisions since states began seriously prosecuting DUI offenders and implementing stricter DUI laws.

In the 2000, the NHTSA pressured Congress to adopt nationwide funding strategies to ensure that states uniformly lowered the BAC level from .10 percent to 0.08 percent. States were denied federal freeway funding unless they adopted the lower BAC threshold. All states eventually adopted this lower threshold and there has been a subsequent drop in DUI incidents and fatalities as a result. The NHTSA and other organizations have viewed this as a major success.

Currently, the NHTSA is studying the effect of Ignition Interlock Devices (“IID”) and what roles they can play in reducing or preventing DUI offenses. This device attaches to a vehicle’s steering column and makes the vehicle inoperable if driven by a person who has been consuming alcohol. Los Angeles County is one of several locations throughout the nation requiring offenders convicted of DUI to install an IID in their vehicle and the NHTSA is paying close attention to this program. The NHTSA is also studying the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana as more states legalize this substance.

If you have been arrested for DUI, it is imperative that you consult with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands how to effectively defend those who have been charged with a DUI offense.

For more information about Los Angeles DUI and the NHTSA, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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