A growing number of heavily medicated Americans get behind the wheel every day, reports the Tennessean. Drugged driving is especially acute in Tennessee, where the number of traffic crashes involving the use of drugs has nearly doubled since 2003, and may be an even larger problem than statistics suggest. Officials said the state lacks enough police officers trained to recognize drug impairment and the tools to effectively prosecute cases. State prosecutors will ask lawmakers to strengthen DUI laws next year to make it easier to catch and convict drugged drivers. The Office of National Drug Control Policy made curbing prescription drug abuse and drugged driving a 2010 priority.
Prescription drugs have grown to the second most abused drug in the country after marijuana, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to a 2007 roadside survey of about 6,000 drivers conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3.9 percent of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for medications such as Loratab, Hydrocodone, Soma, Xanax and Valium. In 2009 and 2010, three fatal crashes in Nashville involved drivers considered to be impaired by prescription medications.