Drug Control, Traffic Safety, and Police Officials Join Race Driver Sarah Fisher to Increase Awareness of Drugged Driving on Nation’s Roads
Washington—National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland, and professional race driver Sarah Fisher today held a news conference to raise public awareness of drugged driving on the Nation’s roadways.
Kerlikowske, Strickland, and Fisher were also joined by District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Jill Ingrassia of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
“Americans are familiar with the terrible consequences of drunk driving and the dangers posed by texting or talking on a cell phone while driving,” said Director Kerlikowske. “Now, as we approach the Fourth of July, one of the busiest periods on the Nation’s roads, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is teaming up with public and private-sector partners across the Nation to raise awareness of the dangers of another important public safety issue – drugged driving.
“Several recent studies have shown that a significant number of drivers have drugs in their system when they get behind the wheel,” said Kerlikowske. “But just as we have made progress in addressing drunk driving, we can raise awareness of drugged driving and educate people about the dangers it presents. Drugs negatively affect judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory. Those who drive with drug in their systems put us all at risk”
Kerlikowske noted that the Monitoring the Future survey released last year shows that, in 2008, one in 10 high school seniors admitted to having driven a vehicle after smoking marijuana in the two weeks prior to the survey. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that more than 12 percent of 18- to 25-yearpolds admitted do driving under the influence of an illicit drug at least once in 2008. And the latest National Roadside Survey by NHTSA showed one in six weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs.
“Impaired driving, caused by alcohol or illegal drugs, is a threat to every driver on the road across the country,” said Administrator Strickland. “That’s why ONDCP and NHTSA are asking motorists to behave responsibly and drive defensively during the summer travel season.”
Fisher, who first drove in the Indianapolis 500 when she was 19 years old, addressed her message to young people. “The drugged driving awareness campaign gives me the opportunity to speak directly to the younger generation of drivers,” said Fisher, who has raced in the Indianapolis 500 nine times, more than any woman in history. “Several studies have shown that too many young people get behind the wheel of a car after smoking marijuana or taking drugs. They need to make smarter and safer decisions.
“I have been a professional race driver since I was a teen-ager, and I can tell you that -- whether you are driving 20 miles an hour on a city street or 220 miles an hour at the Indy 500 -- you don’t want to have impaired judgment or slow reaction time,” said Fisher. “To be safe, you need to be at your best.”
“The attention focused on drunk driving has had an impact,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. “Now, it’s time that more people recognize the dangers of drugged driving. We don’t want people using drugs and getting behind the wheel.”
Ingrassia said that “traffic safety advocates like AAA are committed to educating the public and raising awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.” She noted that even prescription and over-the-counter drugs can sometimes have effects including sleepiness and blurred vision that can affect the ability to drive safely.
ONDCP is working to increase the number of states with effective drugged driving laws. Too often, inadequate drugged driving laws allow people who drive after taking drugs to evade prosecution and avoid responsibility, thereby increasing the possibility that they will continue causing a public safety issue. Zero tolerance or per se laws will help in this effort.
Law enforcement officers need to be trained to detect the signs of drugged driving. ONDCP is working with NHTSA and other partners to increase training opportunities for law enforcement officers.
ONDCP is working with its Federal government partners to improve and standardize lab testing to detect the presence of drugs in drivers. Establishing laboratory standards will improve the ability of law enforcement officials – including prosecutors – to hold drivers accountable and when necessary, get them treatment.
Spreading awareness about this very serious issue, and we’re working with corporate partners, parents, and prevention groups to make that happen. Parents must educate young drivers about the hazards of driving after taking drugs.
ONDCP has produced public service announcements featuring Director Kerlikowske with Fisher and also with public officials, including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and DC Police Chief Lanier. The PSAs are available at: