Reduce Drugged Driving

IBH sounded the alarm about drugged driving over a decade ago. Getting the attention of many policymakers has been a struggle because the data on drugged driving available to highway safety advocacy groups did not rise to the level with which they are familiar related to alcohol’s impairing effects. That is now changing. IBH is at the center of this important change because of its well-established Drugged Driving Committee which brings together leaders in the field of drugged driving from all parts of the country every two months via teleconference. 

Recent data shows that the nation’s drugged driving problem is worsening considerably. Researchers conducting the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers (NRS) found that the percentage of drivers testing positive from potentially impairing medications increased from 3.9% to 4.9% between 2007 and 2013-2014, while the percentage of drivers testing positive for illegal drugs increased from 12.4% to 15.1%.  Not surprisingly, the percentage of drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased from 8.6% to 12.6%. As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, this number will continue to climb. Data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) showed a similarly disturbing trend: the percentage of fatally injured drivers with samples sent for toxicological analyses who tested positive for drugs increased from 28% in 2005 to 33% in 2009. This increase has continued: In 2016 43.6% of drivers in FARS with known drug test results were drug-positive. Over half of drug-positive drivers were positive for two or more drugs and 40.7% of drug-positive drivers were also positive for alcohol. Marijuana was the most common drug among fatally-injured drivers -- its prevalence has increased in recent years as well as the prevalence of opioids. 

This trend in drugged driving, as concerning as it is, can be reversed.  Tremendous progress has already been made in reducing alcohol-impaired driving with a combination of vigorous law enforcement (about 1.2 million DUI arrests each year) and a strong public education campaign emphasizing the clear message, “Don’t Drink and Drive”. The 2013-2014 NRS found that the percentage of drivers testing positive for alcohol dropped from 35.9% in 1973 to 8.3% in 2013-2014.  Even more importantly, during this time the percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers (those with blood or breath alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher) declined from 7.5% to 1.5%.  Many of the same strategies and methods used to reduce alcohol-impaired driving can be used in new efforts to reduce drugged driving.  IBH actively collaborates with other organizations to educate decision-makers about the major highway safety threat of the drugged driving, identify potential solutions, and promote promising new enforcement practices.  IBH supports oral fluid testing at roadside, drug testing for all impaired drivers (including those who test above the illegal limit for alcohol), per se or zero tolerance drugged driving laws, and administrative license revocation (ALR) laws for drugged drivers.  

In February 2018, IBH co-hosted a meeting with the Heritage Foundation and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) entitled, Drugged Driving: What are the Problems? What are the Solutions?  The event brought together national experts to discuss the science of drug-impaired driving, the current data gaps and complex policy issues on this serious public safety threat. IBH contributed to a related report from Heritage, The Need to Treat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs as Seriously as Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.


On July 11, 2018, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection hosted a Congressional hearing on drug-impaired driving that included expert witness testimony from IBH President, Robert L. DuPont, MDJennifer Harmon, Assistant Director, Forensic Chemistry, Orange County Crime Lab; Erin Holmes, Director, Traffic Safety Programs and Technical Writer,; and Colleen Sheehy-Church, National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.


Read the IBH Commentary, "Implement Effective Marijuana DUID Laws to Improve Highway Safety." Fore more information about this public safety threat visit

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