Transportation Safety Leader Prioritizes Drugged Driving Prevention

Americans are well aware of the dangers associated with drunk driving. Thanks to a public awareness campaign spanning decades and driven by a spectrum of government and private organizations, both public perception and the criminal justice system have moved to decrease the rate of driving under the influence of alcohol.

However, drugged driving is now emerging as a growing problem in America. ONDCP, in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other federal agencies, has been working to raise awareness about—and prevent—drugged driving.

We are encouraged that last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that drugged driving is one of its advocacy priorities for 2013. From the NTSB website:

More people die on the highways than in any other mode of transportation. In fact, over 90 percent of all transportation-related deaths occur on highways. Unfortunately, the substance-impaired driver greatly contributes to this average. For example, in 2010, more than 10,000 deaths (30 percent of all highway deaths) involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Over the last decade, 130,000 people have died in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver—20,000 more than the number of seats at the University of Michigan football stadium! According to the 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 14 percent of drivers admit to driving when they thought they were close to or over the legal limit.

The statistics for drugged driving are no less concerning. According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 10.5 million people age 12 and above admitted to driving while impaired by illicit drugs. And among drivers fatally injured in 2009 who were tested for drugs and for whom results were known, one-third tested positive. From 2005-2009, the proportion of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for illicit drugs rose from 13 to 18 percent. The battle against substance-impaired driving is far from over.

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