This holiday season, as millions of Americans travel to see family and friends, it is important to take a moment and consider the role we all can have in keeping our roads safe. December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a time to be especially mindful of preventing loved ones from getting behind the wheel when impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Beginning in 2010, President Obama declared December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month and called on all Americans to commit to driving sober, drug free, and without distractions. Whether linked to alcohol, drugs, or some other cause, impaired and distracted driving can have tragic results. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 10,322 deaths in 2012 were a result of alcohol-related highway accidents. A nationally representative survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers (roughly 1 in 6) tested positive for illicit drugs or medications in 2007. Data compiled by NHTSA on fatal traffic crashes also show that 1 in 3 drivers with known drug-test results who were killed in a motor vehicle crash in 2010 tested positive for drugs (illegal substances as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications).
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working with a number of groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Organizations for Youth Safety, and RADD, the Entertainment Industry's Voice for Road Safety. We encourage parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving, as well as drugged driving. It is important to point out that even drugs prescribed by a doctor can affect the mental and physical skills required for safe driving.
“Above the Influence,” ONDCP’s anti-drug campaign for teens, has released a Drugged Driving Toolkit to assist parents and community leaders in preventing drugged driving. You can download the Drugged Driving Toolkit here. And if you know someone with a substance use disorder who is in need of treatment, click on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Facility Locator.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is an opportunity to highlight the dangers posed by substance abuse on our Nation’s roadways every day. As spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors, we cannot afford to lose track of the effects that alcohol and drugs—even prescribed medications—can have on our faculties and the skills we need for safe driving. Let us make impaired driving awareness a priority this month and every month to help empower individuals, strengthen families, and save lives.
R. Gil Kerlikowske is the Director of National Drug Control Policy. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan represents New Mexico's 3rd congressional district.
 U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers: Drug Results (2009). Available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Research+&+Evaluation/2007+National+Roadside+Survey+of+Alcohol+and+Drug+Use+by+Drivers