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Business stories in the battle against drunk driving

drunk drivingAt this festive time of year, one of the downers is the prevalence of drunk or impaired driving, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says causes one death every 48 minutes in the United States.

And the National Highway Transportation Safety last year told the Wall Street Journal that Thanskgiving weekend had topped even the New Year weekend for four out of five previous years in terms of alcohol-related fatalities.  And the CDC says that in 2010, about 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence of booze or narcotics, a fraction of the self-reported episodes of impaired driving.

The good news is that drunk driving deaths are waning; here are some recent NHTSA statistics about fatalities by age, sex and blood-alcohol level of the driver.  But while the still-tragic toll is a public health and law enforcement problem, it’s also led to something of an industry, with a variety of specialty businesses involved in combatting drunk driving or dealing with the aftermath.  You might want to take a seasonal look at the companies and professionals who handle the various facets of this issue — and publish a personal finance sidebar toting up the costs to a motorist of a first, second or third arrest.

Areas to pursue include:

Specialty professions.  We’ve all seen the ads for attorneys that specialize in drunk-driving cases; you should ask your state’s bar association about trends in that line of work or check with the myriad state and professional groups for that specialty, from 1800DUILaws to the California DUI Lawyers Association.

Training.   Law enforcement personnel, attorneys, administrative staff and others often require training in various aspects of DUI evaluation, representation, etc. — just Google “DUI training” and a geographic term for your region and you’ll be surprised at what pops up, from programs that train officers in “drug recognition” to books, videos, seminars and toxicologists/expert witnesses for the legal profession.  The National College for DUI Defense, which states it is a non-profit, might also point you to third-party firms that serve this niche.

People convicted of impaired driving often are required to take substance abuse courses or counseling that is offered by a third party, and venues that sell or serve booze also may contract for “safe alcohol sales” training for their workers; again, these are niche businesses worth a look.

Equipment and accessories.  From SOBERLINK and SCRAM remote alochol monitoring systems used as part of sentencing, to  breath analyzers for use by law enforcement, by places that serve alcoholic beverages and even by concerned consumers themselves, technology to measure alochol intake appears to be a robust seller; there’s even a keyring version of a breath tester selling for $69.95 on Amazon.com. You can track down distributors and sellers of such gear in your region — along with subscription/monitoring fees and related equipment like ignition interlock systems that won’t allow a car to start if the driver appears impaired.  Here’s a list of state ignition interlock laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Marketing.  Anti-impaired driving campaigns abound this time of year and create work for marketing, communications and website experts; take a look for example at this set of campaigns that NHTSA’s  Traffic Safety Marketing unit is ready to roll out.  Somebody obtained work creating those; are any local firms doing the same on behalf of non-profits, media companies, restaurant/bar associations and the like?

Ancillary businesses.  Conscientious partyers create business opportunities, too.  This is a good time of year to check in with sedan car and limousine services, party-bus operators, taxicab companies and other chauffeur services.

And I’ve noticed a number of designated driver companies popping up in recent years; if you’re out and find you’ve imbibed too much, these teams will come to you, with one person driving you home while another ferries your car to your driveway.  (Alternatively, solo operators will appear on a scooter they can put in the trunk for the ride to the driver’s home.) It might be interesting to profile a few such firms in your area — including the fee conundrum; how do they handle partiers who can’t cough up the price of a ride after a night on the town, for example?  What insurance is required to enter this line of work?

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