Impaired Driving Remains Key Concern, Hazard for Motorists

Published on March 03, 2016 03:40 PM in Safe Driving
Impaired Driving Remains Key Concern, Hazard for Motorists

Drunken driving has plummeted in recent years but that doesn’t mean there’s fewer impaired motorists on the road.

Recent government studies indicate that while drunken driving is at its lowest rate since the early 1970s, people are taking to the wheel while high on marijuana or after popping prescription pills.

“America made drunk driving a national issue and a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort can make an enormous difference,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “At the same time, the rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers has tracked impaired driving data since 1973. This year’s report shows a significant dip in drunken driving since 2007 and major decline since the study’s creation.

On the other hand, marijuana appears to have taken its place. One in five weekend night drivers had evidence of drugs in their system last year. That same figure is up from 16.3 percent in 2007.

A second survey found marijuana users are more likely to be involved in collisions partially because marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.

“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. “These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.”