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Speeches and Presentations

Drug-Impaired Driving Call to Action, Opening Remarks

Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator

Thursday, March 15, 2018 | Washington, DC

Drug-Impaired Driving Call to Action
Opening Remarks, as Prepared
Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator
March 15, 2018

Thank you – thanks to each and every one of you for joining us today. Today’s event launches a national dialogue. But our time here today is not only launching dialogue – we will take action.

Our time today serves as a call-to-action – action from us in this room, but also action from others outside this room and across the country. Action to address drug-impaired driving. 

We are here because I have learned from you – many of you in this room, and many folks outside this room – of the growing evidence that drug impairment in our Nation’s drivers presents a growing risk to our highway safety. 

NHTSA is a safety agency, and it is not just our responsibility to lean in and address drug-impaired driving–it’s our mission; it’s our obligation to protect Americans on the roadways and save lives.  

That’s why we have asked you all here today.  

NHTSA has invited you all to help put together the pieces of this puzzle – and it is not a simple puzzle. But we are committed to the mission of saving lives, preventing injuries, and reducing the cost of traffic crashes. We must start by raising awareness, by echoing and amplifying messaging already shared by our partners.

And together, we will begin to chart a course toward safer roads. So let’s get started.

Terry Zobeck is the Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Policy, Research and Budget within the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). That office leads and coordinates the Nation’s efforts at reducing drug use and its consequences.  

Dr. Zobeck oversees the production of the National Drug Control Strategy, the Administration’s blueprint for addressing international, interdiction, domestic law enforcement, prevention, and treatment activities to reduce drug use and its consequences. As the Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Policy, Research and Budget, Dr. Zobeck is responsible for policy implementation and assessment in the areas of public health (prevention, treatment and recovery), public safety, and international; formulation of the budget to support these policies; and the research that guides these policies.  

Dr. Zobeck has been with ONDCP since 1996. Prior to his Federal service, he was a substance abuse researcher for 13 years in the private sector, managing contracts with Federal clients, including ONDCP, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Dr. Zobeck received his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee.

Thank you, Dr. Zobeck.

Several of you have asked me the source of my commitment, or my passion, for the cause of drug-impaired driving. I have told a few of you stories that are all too familiar to many of you – most of you.

Many of us share similar stories – witnessing loss, suffering loss. Needless loss.

Thirty years ago, I had the honor to serve for a short while in law enforcement.  I arrested drunk drivers. I was trained to identify probable cause for a vehicle stop, and to assess the signs of alcohol impairment in drivers. I knew how to conduct field sobriety tests, how to effect a safe arrest, how to collect evidence and maintain chain of custody, and how to write an accurate and complete report. I believed I was keeping dangerous drivers off our roads. I tell you this because I share with many of you a problem/solution conceptual model from alcohol-impaired drivers. That’s important because we may need to challenge that model in order to make progress to combat drug-impaired driving.

Some of you have heard me describe a haunting discomfort that society seems to forget the victims, and to forget the tragedy when a crash scene is cleared, the ambulances have departed, and the smashed car parts are removed from the road. When a traffic crash is cleared from the road, we as a Nation continue to go about our business seemingly unaware of the tragedy that occurred just hours before.

I know that many of us share those experiences, those losses, and the haunting sense that we are not, as a Nation, giving adequate attention to the loss of life.

Many of us – maybe all of us – share those feelings of loss and grief. But why take action?

The reason that I and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has committed to this initiative is because of you.

I joined NHTSA only 6 months ago. One of the first things I learned at NHTSA is that we suffered two years of increased fatalities on our Nation’s highways. After years of progress, historic increases in fatalities.

And we don’t have the data to explain why.

I heard some bad news from many of you.

I learned from you that there is an epidemic in this country, not only of opioids, but of ignorance regarding the risks of driving while impaired by illicit drugs. That there are fewer driver’s ed programs in our Nation’s high schools.

I learned that there is increasing tolerance across the United States not only of recreational THC use but of driving while impaired by THC.

I learned that there is evidence that drivers are ingesting multiple substances and mixing them with alcohol and then hitting the road. 

I heard about drug-interaction effects, masking drug intoxication with alcohol, and challenges removing these drivers from our roads.

But you also gave me good news:

You told me about your efforts to improve public awareness and education. You told me about the training that improves the ability of law enforcement to assess drug impairment, and of amazing new lab protocols to test for a myriad of substances in blood. You told me of how you learned to successfully prosecute drug-impaired drivers who make our roads unsafe.

You convinced me that it is time to take action. Time to tackle drug-impaired driving and save lives on our roads. I don’t need to hear more to know that we need to act.
Today is a call to action. A call to coordinated action toward a common vision for the future of our roads.

I don’t know what that vision is, but I know there will be fewer deaths resulting from drug-impaired driving.

Today, we will talk about the problem–and the challenges are intimidating. But I know we can overcome them together.

We will talk together about some of the successes and best practices – and I know we can figure out how to share them together.

And we will – all of us, here in this room. We will begin to craft a vision for a nation without drug-impaired drivers on our roadways. And we will take action and combat drug-impaired driving together.

Officer Jermaine Galloway is a nationally recognized presenter, national award winner and resource for those involved with prevention, education and enforcement. He was an Idaho law enforcement officer from 1997-2015 and has more than 16 years’ experience in alcohol and drug education, enforcement and prevention. Officer Galloway currently has over 40,000 attendees in his classes annually and he dedicates thousands of hours to community scans, research, and substance abuse identification in large and rural communities across the country.

Officer Galloway currently provides nationwide training to coalition members; law enforcement; educators; youth; counselors; probation, treatment, and health professionals; judges; university officials; and community members. Galloway trains on several different alcohol and drug topics, including: drug and alcohol trends, marijuana, underage drinking, vaping, synthetic drugs, opioids and drug concealment.

Officer Galloway was formerly a member of the Idaho impaired-driving task force and is also an Idaho Police Officers Standards and Training Board certified instructor and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of San Francisco. 

Thank you, officer Galloway.

Today we’ll learn from our panelists and provide an overview of:

  • What the science tells us, and what challenges science still faces; and
  • Strides in communicating the risks of drug-impaired driving; and tools for identifying, assessing and prosecuting drug-impaired driving.

Today we’ll also hear from each of you.

We want to explore and leverage innovative approaches to prevent drug-impaired driving in our communities to save lives today and save lives tomorrow.  As an idea or solution comes to mind, I want you to write it down and post it to the boards at the back of the room.

There are seven categories: Communications, Law Enforcement, Prosecution, Health/Medical, Science, State laws, and Miscellaneous. 

You will find sticky notes at the tables in 2 colors – yellow and blue. Use yellow for ideas that can save lives today, that we can put into action in the next 2 years. Use blue for ideas to save lives tomorrow, those that we can put into action in the next 3 years and beyond.

We will leave here today with progress toward a shared vision for the future.  

The information generated today will allow us to expand and work with Congress and the States, and other stakeholders and communities not represented in the room today – to address the serious problem drug-impaired driving poses. 

It will also help us generate tools to expand public awareness of this problem. 

We will understand where we are and define near-term best practices for where we are going.

Let’s get started.