Drugged Driving May Now Be Worse Than Drunk Driving

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"People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability", said Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report.

The report's highest recommendation remains for states, communities and other interested parties to continue to increase training for law enforcement to help officers identify and arrest impaired drivers, GHSA stated. It was based on the most recent available USA state data reported to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). That could created a sampling error if those tested were more likely than other fatalities to have drugs present in their system.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in all 50 states.

Although the liberalization of marijuana laws and increase in drug-use fatalities might lead to an easy conclusion, the report cites European studies that found marijuana use slightly increased the risk of a crash, while opioids, amphetamines and mixing alcohol with drugs greatly increased the risk of a crash.

"Public awareness of the drugged driving issue is critical to finding a solution", said AAA Spokesperson, Cindy Antrican. "If you're on a drug that does so, you shouldn't be driving". Of those, 37 percent had a blood alcohol level of at least.005, which is less than one drink for most people.

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Delays in drawing blood for a test can allow drugs to metabolize in the system and not provide an accurate measure, while some drugs can remain in the body for days or weeks, long after impairment has ended, the report noted. For example, the national Drug Evaluation and Classification Program trains law enforcement officers to identify drug impairment through a 90-minute, 12-step evaluation. "The relationship between alcohol and crash risk has been known for 40 years".

While driving under the influence of drugs is illegal in every state, drugged driving laws are hard to enforce and prosecute, the report says.

Roadside screenings for drugs that use saliva are being tested, and tests that use breath are being developed, Hedlund said.

Jefferson County Sheriff Deputy Kevin Schwindt tests a driver, whose face is illuminated by police vehicle lights, to see if he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, at a mobile Driving Under the Influence (DUI) checkpoint in Golden, Colorado, U.S. on April 12, 2008.

"Years ago, the common phrase at a party at the end of the night was, 'How about one for the road?'" Mr. Hedlund said.