Addressing the Public Safety Dangers Associated with Impaired or Distracted Driving

Revised with current title October 2011   

Approved titled "Legal Sanctions and Rehabilitation for Driving under the Influence" January 2004, replacing "Alcohol Abuse and Motor Vehicle Safety" approved April 2003 and “Legal Sanctions for Drunk Driving" approved June 2003

In recognition of the significant public safety dangers associated with drivers who are impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs, as well as by those who engage in distracted driving1, the American College of Emergency Physicians : 

  • Advocates toxicological screening of drivers by law enforcement officials in all crashes involving fatality or serious injury.  Law enforcement personnel should have the capability of conducting all toxicological screening, which includes but is not limited to blood alcohol concentration testing. These efforts will promote appropriate prosecutions and convictions of impaired or intoxicated drivers and will facilitate intervention and treatment as needed. 
  • Supports legal sanctions for persons convicted of driving while impaired, intoxicated, or distracted. Legal sanctions may include incarceration, driver's license suspension, automobile impoundment, public disclosure, ignition interlocks, monetary fines or penalties, and other measures that enhance the safety of both the offender and the general  public. 
  • Supports mandatory rehabilitation programs as mandated by state law for persons convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of medicines, illicit drugs, or alcohol. 
  • Recognizes the high rate of recidivism for persons involved in DUI offenses, even with active intervention and punishment through the judicial system, and supports efforts by emergency physicians and society to identify and arrange treatment for individuals suffering from substance addiction or abuse. 
  • Supports efforts to ensure that the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions is covered by health care plans to the same extent as other medical conditions. 
  • Advocates for education efforts regarding the hazards of binge drinking and other substance abuse, even among individuals not considered alcoholic or addicted, because these activities are often associated with impaired driving. 
  • Opposes legislation providing permissive or mandatory reporting of the results of patient toxicological screening, including but not limited to blood alcohol concentration levels,   by physicians to law enforcement officials because such reporting fundamentally conflicts with the appropriate role of physicians in the physician-patient relationship. 
  • Opposes legislation that relieves insurance companies of financial responsibility for otherwise insured losses incurred by beneficiaries who suffer the losses due to the actions of those driving while impaired, intoxicated, or distracted, including but not limited to driving while under the influence of medicines, illicit drugs, or alcohol. 

1 Distracted driving is defined in accordance with the definition provided at, a web site developed for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which states that"distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle.  Such activities have the potential to distract the person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing." 


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