Speeches and Presentations

GHSA/AAA Drug-Impaired Driving Forum: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs

Presented at the GHSA/AAA Drug-Impaired Forum (as drafted) Heidi R. King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 | Washington, DC

We here at NHTSA are committed to changing behaviors and saving lives, and drug-impaired driving puts everyone at risk. We must change the way the public thinks about driving impaired by drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Almost everyone knows that driving drunk is dangerous, puts lives at risk, and can get you a DUI – but there isn’t the same awareness for drug-impaired driving. 

Because of recent legalization efforts, NHTSA and others have focused on educating marijuana users on the risks of driving high. In fact, focus groups we’ve conducted with users of marijuana show they think they’re actually safer drivers when they use marijuana. Many don’t think they can be charged with DUI for marijuana.

But the drug-impaired driving problem is much broader. There are life-threatening misperceptions about prescription and over-the-counter drug-impaired driving. People don’t know that: If a drug is legal, it isn’t dangerous to drive. If a medication is over the counter or prescribed, it isn’t impairing. If my doctor gave it to me to improve my health, it won’t endanger me when driving.

We have both the opportunity and the responsibility to educate the public about these risks. We are working to raise awareness among the driving public of the fact that driving impaired by drugs is illegal in every state. We want to encourage people to think twice before driving – to designate a sober driver, call a cab, or use a ridesharing service.

That’s why last summer we launched If You Feel Different, You Drive Different and its high-visibility enforcement component, Drive High, Get a DUI. We’re continuing to develop new materials and messaging for our partners to use and share. All of these materials are available for free at trafficsafetymarketing.gov.

We need your help to raise awareness, to change minds, to save lives from drug-impaired driving. Partnerships are critical in building support and saturating the market with the message that drug-impaired driving is dangerous and illegal. We need to work with the pharmaceutical, medical and pharmacy communities to educate professionals and consumers. Forums like these are important to bring all of us together in one room and make new connections.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to saving lives.