With more drivers impaired by illegal and prescription drugs, law enforcement officials say cracking down on drugged driving must become a national priority, says the Houston Chronicle. Drugged driving, though not new, has become more of a threat in recent years. Blood tests on drivers are detecting more traces of prescription drugs like Xanax, Soma, and hydrocodone – all substances that can adversely affect judgment, reaction time, and motor skills. The tests also are increasingly detecting mixtures of prescription and illegal drugs taken with alcohol, which can exacerbate impairment.
The troubling trend comes as DWIs nationwide have declined, largely because of more than two decades of public education about the dangers of drinking and driving. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is calling for a reduction in accidents and fatalities over the next five years and for more education and research on how drugs affect the ability to drive. “We’ve made progress on DWI,” said Gil Kerlikwoske, President Obama’s top drug policy adviser. “We need a very clear message on not using drugs and driving.” Getting reliable statistics on the problem is. State DUI laws vary, and no standard has been established to determine when a driver is impaired by drugs, Kerlikwoske said. A blood alcohol content level of 0.08 is the standard used for alcohol impairment. The National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, conducted every 10 years, included drug use for the first time in 2007. The random survey of more than 9,000 drivers found that 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for over-the-counter and illegal drugs including marijuana and cocaine.