President Obama declared December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) blog, Of Substance, reported Dec. 2.
According to Obama’s proclamation, thousands of Americans lose their lives to “drunk, drugged or distracted driving” every year. Obama described drugged driving as a “growing problem” and specifically pointed to the danger of driving under the influence of prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs. He referred to distracted driving — texting or using electronics while driving — as “life-threatening,” and recommended the Distraction.gov website as a prevention tool.
Obama said the federal government had taken several steps to prevent impaired driving. The government has banned its employees from texting while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with law enforcement nationally to increase identification of drunk drivers during the holidays, and the ONDCP will be educating the public about the increased incidence of drugged driving.
As part of its education efforts, the ONDCP published a guest blog post by Sandy Spavone of the National Organization for Youth Safety about youth and drugged driving. Spavone quoted a 2007 NHTSA study that found that about one in six of all drivers on the roads — both adult and underage — on weekend nights was under the influence of legal or illegal drugs. About one in ten high school seniors who responded to the 2008 Monitoring the Future survey said they had driven while high on marijuana during the previous two weeks.
About 23 percent of high school seniors said they had either been behind the wheel after using marijuana or been driven by someone who had. In comparison, only 15.8 percent said they had driven or ridden in a motor vehicle driver after consuming five or more drinks.
Spavone wrote that drugged driving prevention would require better youth education, more stringent laws and law enforcement, and community education projects led by youth.