Online Program

An Innovative Approach to Reduce Drunk-Driving Injuries and Deaths in the United States: Using the Threat of Liability to Encourage Rental Car Companies to Install Technology that Prevents Drunk Driving

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Danielle Edwards, JD MS, Health Policy & Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Alexander McCourt, JD, MPH, Health Policy & Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Juliana Shulman, Health Policy & Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Batimore, MD
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one person dies every 51 minutes from an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash. Alcohol ignition interlock devices are one mechanism for preventing alcohol-related crashes, however, this technology is currently only used to prevent recidivism. In this session, we explore litigation as a strategy for expanding the use of interlocks. Using rental car fleets as a model, we propose a theory of liability founded in negligence.

If an intoxicated customer causes an alcohol-related crash in a rental vehicle, the rental car company may be negligent for failing to install an interlock. This threat of litigation may encourage rental companies to preemptively adopt interlocks to prevent drunk driving in their vehicles. Furthermore, the presence of interlocks in rental cars may shift the automobile industry and consumers toward universal acceptance of such technology.

Our theory of civil liability arises from extensive review of case law and public health literature. A retrospective evaluation of the role of litigation in airbag and seatbelt policies demonstrates the power of litigation in shaping policy and behavior.

Public policy and law must adapt to determine ways to employ this technological tool to prevent drunk-driving crashes. By establishing potential liability among a fleet of vehicles and by building consumer and corporate acceptance, public health policymakers can begin to move toward more universal acceptance and usage of this technology.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Identify a litigation strategy to curtail alcohol-related crashes Discuss the use of litigation as a public policy tool Describe the legal theory of negligence and explain how it can be employed in the public health context

Keyword(s): Law, Violence & Injury Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an attorney studying public health. I have been part of a team researching various litigation strategies to reduce drunk-driving related crashes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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