More Americans are driving on drugs

A new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) states that drug driving is on the increase in the United States.

The percentage of fatally-injured drivers testing positive for drugs – 40 percent – is almost the same as those testing positive for any alcohol. The most recent roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for some drug or medication.

Both states and the federal government are under increased pressure to address drug-impaired driving, but the extent of drug impairment as a contributing factor in crashes is still unclear, and little is known about effective prevention strategies.

“Every state must take steps to reduce drug-impaired driving, regardless of the legal status of marijuana,” said Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director of GHSA. “This is the first report to provide states and other stakeholders with the information they need. And we encourage NHTSA to issue guidance on best practices to prevent marijuana-impaired driving. We look to the federal government to take a leadership role in this issue similar to that of drunk driving and seat belt use.”

Dr. Jim Hedlund, formerly a senior NHTSA official, researched the topic and authored the new report and recommendations.

At the heart of the report are action items states can take on a broad spectrum of issues. One innovative public/private initiative highlighted is Drugged Driving=Done Driving, a new statewide pilot program in Ohio that educates young drivers about the risks of driving under the influence of drugs. It includes peer-to-peer efforts, public service announcements, grassroots engagement with youth and traffic safety stakeholders and has the support of law enforcement and political leadership across the state.

“While this report summarizes the research and data available, it also highlights how much remains unknown,” said Hedlund. “For example, we still don’t know with certainty how much of a specific drug will cause impairment or if such a relationship can even be defined. Many states do not have the data to measure their drug-impaired driving scope or characteristics. The recommendations in the report will help states refine and augment their efforts to detect and deter drug-impaired drivers.”