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The White House
For Immediate Release

Remarks by Gil Kerlikowske at the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND), Vienna, Austria


Vienna, Austria —Thank you to the Secretariat and the Commission for coordinating this roundtable on key public health and safety issues, including youth addiction and the growing threat of drugged driving.

Thank you to the Secretariat and the Commission for coordinating this roundtable on key public health and safety issues, including youth addiction and the growing threat of drugged driving.

We are dedicated to a balanced, comprehensive public health and public safety approach. Central to this philosophy is a commitment to stop drug use before it ever starts. Surely, prevention is the shortest route to reducing the toll that drug use places on society. Of course, not all youth will heed prevention messages and that is why communities must intervene on use when it does start. Screening and brief interventions implemented in community, school, public health and hospital settings can halt use before it progresses to addiction.

One major consequence of use is drugged driving.

After decades of global progress on driving under the influence of alcohol, I know that drugged driving is an issue that cuts across borders and it is my hope that we can come together and agree on solutions to address this increasing phenomenon.

Research shows that drugged driving poses a serious threat to public safety.

In the beginning of my tenure in office, I was stunned to learn that 1 in 8 nighttime weekend drivers in the US tested positive for an illicit drug (1 in 6 when you include illicit drugs or pharmaceuticals).

Additionally, further analyses have shown that one in three (33 percent) of all drivers with known drug-test results who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 tested positive for drugs.

Even as the total number of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes declined 21 percent from 2005 to 2009, the involvement of drugs in fatal crashes increased by 5 percentage points over the same time period.

We know that this problem is not confined to the United States. Several regions around the world have studied this issue and found similarly troubling rates of prevalence of drugged driving.

In the EU, the DRUID project has brought together the most experienced organisations and researchers throughout Europe, involving more than 20 European countries. The aim is to gain new insights to the real degree of impairment caused by psychoactive drugs and their actual impact on road safety.

We also know that this is an issue that acutely affects key shipping routes in the developing world. Drivers of large trucks, tractors, and industrial vehicles often find themselves working long hours and mistakenly think that drugs will help them with their performance. We know that these drugs are, instead, a dangerous threat to the safety of all on the road.

The United States has set a top line goal of reducing drugged driving prevalence by 10 percent by 2015.

To achieve this goal, within the United States, ONDCP is encouraging our states to explore legal responses, such as per se laws that make it illegal for individuals to drive with illicit drugs in their system.

Already, 17 states in the United States have per se or zero tolerance statutes. In these states, it is a criminal offense to have any amount of an illegal drug in one’s body while driving.

The US is also delivering resources to parents and drug prevention community coalitions about the threats of drugged driving so they can talk to young drivers about the consequences of alcohol and drug use.

Additionally, the US is providing increased training to law enforcement to identify drugged drivers through;

Drug Recognition Experts − ONDCP is working to ensure that every state has a drug recognition expert program to certify law enforcement officers as qualified to detect drugged driving.

Online ARIDE module – an interactive website that will allow more law enforcement officers to be trained in drugged driving recognition.

We are also working with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop standard screening methodologies for drug-testing labs to use in detecting the presence of drugs.

With our introduction of a resolution focusing on drugged driving, it is our hope that we can raise awareness of this issue. To that end, we will host, along with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) a conference in Montreal this July to discuss key policy items to mitigate this problem.

We thank the Secretariat for introducing this issue to the CND today, and I hope to work with many of you – across the globe – on this vital issue. Thank you.