When most people think of the holiday season, they imagine cookies, presents, and parties. It is a time to spend with family and friends, celebrating love and togetherness. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a time of increased danger on the roads. With inclement weather and more drivers on the roads, traffic accidents are common at this time of year. In addition, one of the major causes of accidents during the holidays is drugged and intoxicated drivers.
The White House is observing National Impaired Driving Prevention Month this December. While the perils of drunk driving are well known, drugged driving can be just as dangerous. Even prescription drugs can impair perception, reaction time, judgment, and motor skills. In an extensive survey done by the National Highway Traffic Safety in Administration in 2007, one in eight nighttime, weekend drivers tested positive for illicit drugs. In 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 10.3 million adolescents and adults admitted to having driven under the influence of drugs within the past year. In 2009, one in three fatally injured drivers with known drug-test results tested positive for drugs.
Seventeen states, including Georgia, have adopted zero tolerance or “per se” statutes that make it a crime to operate a vehicle while having alcohol or a drug in the body. Law enforcement officials and researchers believe that this type of statute is the most effective in dealing with drugged drivers. Georgia’s law makes it illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle “under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.”
Another key focus of the campaign to reduce drugged driving is education. While students are taught of the dangers of drunk driving in school, the perils of drug-impaired driving are not stressed. Schools should emphasize that drugged driving can also result in serious car accidents. In addition, law enforcement agencies should instruct officers on how to identify drivers under the influence of drugs.
By focusing on the problem of drugged drivers, the White House hopes to raise awareness of an issue that is often overlooked. Its goal is to reduce the number of drugged drivers by 10% by 2015. Let’s hope it succeeds in this worthy undertaking.