From the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA): “Have one [drink] for the road” was once a commonly used phrase in American culture. It has only been within the past 25 years that as a Nation, we have begun to recognize the dangers associated with drunk driving. And through a multipronged and concerted effort involving many stakeholders—including educators, media, legislators, law enforcement, and community organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving—the Nation has seen a decline in the numbers of people killed or injured as a result of drunk driving. But it is now time that we recognize and address the similar dangers that can occur with drugged driving.
The principal concern regarding drugged driving is that driving under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain could impair one’s motor skills, reaction time, and judgment. Drugged driving is a public health concern because it puts not only the driver at risk but also passengers and others who share the road.
However, despite the knowledge about a drug’s potentially lethal effects on driving performance and other concerns that have been acknowledged by some public health officials, policy officials, and constituent groups, drugged driving laws have lagged behind alcohol-related driving legislation, in part because of limitations in the current technology for determining drug levels and resulting impairment. For alcohol, detection of its blood concentration (BAC) is relatively simple, and concentrations greater than 0.08 percent have been shown to impair driving performance; thus, 0.08 percent is the legal limit in this country. But for illicit drugs, there is no agreed-upon limit for which impairment has been reliably demonstrated. Furthermore, determining current drug levels can be difficult, since some drugs linger in the body for a period of days or weeks after initial ingestion.
We need to press forward to develop field sobriety tools for all substances that can impair driving, not just alcohol. Click this link to find out more information: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/drugged-driving