Health Matters: Drugged Driving A Public Health Concern
This column was submitted by the Needham Public Health Department.
Submitted by Carol Read, Needham Public Health Department
Tragic stories of traffic-related deaths are rampant at the local and national level; we are inundated daily with media reports of the loss of life resulting from car crashes attributed to drinking under the influence of alcohol.
Some Americans are desensitized to the statistics and research that validate the alarming rate of accidents caused by drivers who test positive for alcohol.
In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 10, 839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (32 percent) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. An alarming 25 percent of drivers, between the ages of 15 to 20 years who died in motor vehicle crashes, had a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or higher.
These statistics are staggering, yet progress has been documented in reducing the incidents of DUI in our country due to multiple strategies, primarily: breathalyzer tests that reliably detect blood alcohol concentrations greater than 0.08 percent, the threshold shown to impair driving performance, strong alcohol related driving legislation and enforcement and powerful national education campaigns.
We are now called to action to recognize a newly termed epidemic that threatens our health and safety: Drugged Driving.
A Real Problem
Drugged Driving poses a significant yet largely unrecognized problem, a substantiated threat equal to the scale of drunk driving. According to the CDC, drugs other than alcohol e.g., marijuana and cocaine are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.
It is well known that drugs impair perception, judgment, motor skills and memory by impacting the centers of the brain that are responsible for these activities. These physiological impairments diminish driving acuity and response time, critical elements related to safe driving.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have all partnered to educate Americans on the threat of Drugged Driving and have formulated a strategic response to combat this increasing public health concern.
Drugged Driving: Myth or Fact?
- Thirty-three percent of motor vehicle fatalities, with known drug test results, tested positive for drugs. In the United States, the involvement of drugs in fatal crashes has increased by five percent over the past five years even as the number of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes has declined. (Source: NHTSA’s 2009 Fatal Accident Reporting System)
- Sixteen percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over the counter medications. 11 percent of these individuals tested positive for illicit drugs. (Source: 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) National Road Side Survey)
- 10.5 million people, ages 12 or older, reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs such as: marijuana, cocaine, narcotics and methamphetamine. Forty-four percent of these drivers were between the ages of 16 and 25 years. (Source: 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH))
- One out of 10 high school seniors (14,600 surveyed) said they drove after using marijuana. (Source: 2008 Monitoring the Future Study of 46,000 youth from 386 public and private schools in the United States)
Call To Action: How Is Needham Responding?
Drugged Driving is a public health concern, locally and nationally, that can be impacted by creating awareness and encouraging behavior change strategies with our friends and family.
The Needham Coalition for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention (NCYSAP) is working to educate Needham residents on prevalent substance abuse issues that threaten the health and safety of our residents. Our coalition is comprised of leaders and stakeholders from key sectors of a community including: parents, youth, business leaders, law enforcement, school and public service officials, health care professionals, faith-based organizations, media, youth serving representatives, state and local government agencies, social service providers and other community representatives.
We are working together to implement multi-sector, multi strategy approaches to substance abuse prevention targeted towards decreasing the risk factors associated with substance abuse and increasing the protective factors that empower youth to remain substance free.
We are committed to disseminating data-driven, evidence-based research, information and programs to educate our residents on the vital issues of alcohol, marijuana and other drug use. Our collaboration with the Needham Police Department, the Needham Public Health Department and the Needham Public Schools enables us to work openly, on a community level in response to substance use issues, discussing prevention initiatives, programming and policy change.
What Can You Do?
1. Educate yourself, reach out to friends and family, and share the facts on Drugged Driving. You can create awareness of this safety issue; you can make a difference. Log onto these websites for further information regarding Drugged Driving:
2. Attend a NCYSAP meeting. The coalition meets regularly, on the second Tuesday morning of each month at the Needham Free Public Library Community Room from 7:15-8:30 a.m., to share open and honest dialogue on the high risk behaviors and substance abuse issues facing Needham youth. All are welcome to participate simply as a meeting observer or to become involved in working on NCYSAP initiatives; any level of commitment is valued.
3. Learn more. For more information, to share your insights and ideas or to join the email list, contact Carol Read, Substance Abuse Prevention & Education Coordinator, Needham Health Department, at 781-455-7500 ext. 259 or email@example.com. Or visit www.needhamma.gov/substanceabuse.