White House Drug Policy Director, Maryland Attorney General, State and Local Police Promote Awareness of Drugged Driving on Nation’s Roads
BALTIMORE— Before one of the busiest holiday weekends on the Nation’s highways, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler today encouraged drivers to be safe and not to get behind the wheel after taking drugs.
At a news conference to raise public awareness of drugged driving, Kerlikowske and Gansler were joined by state and local police officials, including Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, and Maryland State Police Lieutenant Tom Woodward.
“As we approach the Fourth of July weekend, one of the busiest periods on our Nation’s roads, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is teaming up with state and local government partners to focus attention on an important public safety issue – drugged driving,” said Director Kerlikowske.
“Several recent studies have shown that a significant number of drivers have drugs in their system when they get behind the wheel,” said Kerlikowske. “But just as we have made progress in addressing drunk driving and texting while driving, we can raise awareness of drugged driving and educate people about the dangers it presents. Drugs negatively affect judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory.”
Attorney General Gansler said he is “proud to partner with ONDCP and Director Kerlikowske in this public awareness campaign because drivers with drugs in their system put everyone else on the road at risk.”
“While most Americans are conscious of the terrible consequences of drunk driving, the dangers associated with drugged driving are not known nearly as well by the general public,” Attorney General Gansler said. “As the Fourth of July draws closer, law enforcement agencies across the country must use this as an opportunity to help raise awareness of the severe risks of drugged driving.”
Kerlikowske noted that the Monitoring the Future survey released last year shows that, in 2008, one in 10 high school seniors admitted to having driven a vehicle after smoking marijuana in the two weeks prior to the survey interview. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 12 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds admitted to driving under the influence of an illicit drug at least once in 2008. And the latest National Roadside Survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that one in eight weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal drugs.
In Maryland, Kerlikowske said, 83 percent of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 were tested for drugs, and more than 25 percent tested positive.
ONDCP is working to increase the number of states with effective drugged driving laws. Too often, Kerlikowske said, inadequate drugged driving laws allow people who drive after taking drugs to evade prosecution and avoid responsibility, thereby increasing the possibility that they will continue causing a public safety issue. Zero tolerance or per se laws will help this effort, Kerlikowske said.
The ONDCP director also said law enforcement officers need to be trained to detect the signs of drugged driving. ONDCP is working with NHTSA and other partners to increase training opportunities for law enforcement officers.
ONDCP is also working with its Federal government partners to improve and standardize lab testing to detect the presence of drugs in drivers. Establishing laboratory standards will improve the ability of law enforcement officials – including prosecutors – to hold drivers accountable and, when necessary, to help them get treatment.
ONDCP is also working with non-governmental organizations such as the American Automobile Association (AAA) and private citizens, including professional race driver Sarah Fisher, to raise awareness of the drugged driving issue.
To help promote public awareness, ONDCP has produced public service announcements featuring Director Kerlikowske with Attorney General Gansler, Ms. Fisher, and other public officials, including Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The PSA’s can be viewed at: