Thermometers across the country have made it clear that summer is upon us. In conjunction with summer holidays, we often see campaigns designed to heighten our awareness of the dangers of alcohol-impaired drivers. However, there is an equally dangerous driver: the drugged driver. These drivers crash, and those crashes may not only result in injuries, but deaths.
According to a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in eight nighttime weekend drivers test positive for illegal drugs. More alarming – one in three drivers with known test results who were killed in accidents tested positive for an illegal drug. Young people are also at risk. According to another study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in eight high school seniors admit to smoking marijuana before driving.
The research is clear – driving high slows reaction time, impacts judgment, and all too often leads to deadly consequences. So when people drive high, they don’t just pose a threat to themselves, but to others with whom they share the road.
Our agencies are committed to reducing drugged driving. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is working with states to help them pass zero tolerance laws when it comes to drugged driving. Already, 17 states have established per se laws, which means that any presence of an illegally used drug is a violation of the law. We are also working with law enforcement agencies to increase the number of law enforcement officers who are trained to detect the signs of drugged driving and are properly trained to identify impaired drivers.
But our efforts don’t end there. Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board hosted its first-ever forum examining the substance-impaired driving problem. Over the next several months, NTSB will be reviewing the information obtained during the forum and conducting additional research to identify the best recommendations for preventing future drug-related highway crashes, injuries, and deaths.
Americans deserve fewer risks when taking to the roads and highways; parents should not have to fear that their children will become another teenage drugged driving statistic. We at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Transportation Safety Board are steadfast in our mission to reduce this threat, and we hope that Americans will join us in raising public awareness regarding this challenge.