Motor-vehicle-related deaths have been on the rise — both 2015 and 2016 saw large spikes in fatalities. While no single factor can account for the recent steep increases, there may be cause to suspect that drug impairment is playing a role.
The 2013/2014 National Roadside Survey found that the percentage of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed to 20 percent from 16.3 percent in 2007. The number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana grew by nearly 50 percent.
A 2015 NHTSA study found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. The increased risk may be because marijuana users come from groups already at a higher risk for crashes, particularly young men.
With this in mind, NHTSA has launched a new drug-impaired driving initiative. It began with a March 15th Call to Action. This 1-day event was designed to start a dialogue around the issue, to initiate action around what we do know, and to gain a better understanding of the challenge. The experts and stakeholders the agency brought together at the Call to Action made a great start on our efforts to work collaboratively to raise awareness, share best practices, and to look toward collecting consistent data, and testing and measuring driver impairment levels.
We still have a great deal to learn about drug-impaired driving, but every American should know that, like drunk driving, drug-impaired driving is impaired driving, which means it is dangerous and illegal. Whether a drug is legally prescribed or illegal, its impairing effects pose a threat to the driver, vehicle passengers, and everyone else on the road. Remember these safety tips as you drive, and spread the message to your friends and family members:
- A driver who has ingested an impairing substance — such as prescription drugs, sleep medication, marijuana, or any form of illegal drug — should not drive. Never ride with an impaired driver.
- If you are drug-impaired, hand your key to a sober driver. It is never okay to drive while impaired by any substance.
- Take the keys away from someone who is impaired and help them get home safely. Don’t spare their feelings; save their life by not letting them drive impaired.
- Use NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which is available for Apple and Android phones. SaferRide helps call a taxi, a sober friend for a ride, and shares your pickup location.
- Use your community’s sober ride program.
- If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement.
Nobody can solve drug-impaired driving alone. We need a collaborative approach that will help us begin to better understand and address this road safety challenge. But by acting on what we know, we can save lives today. By advancing the science and the data, we can more effectively fight drug-impaired driving in the future. You can visit nhtsa.gov/drugimpaireddriving to learn more and to share your thoughts and ideas on this topic. We hope you will be part of the new, national dialogue around drug-impaired driving.