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Surveys Suggest “A Frightening Number of Drivers Are Not Fit to Drive”

The (US) College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) is a professional organization of scientists dedicated to a better understanding of drug abuse and addiction.  With over 700 members, CPDD describes itself as “an interface among governmental, industrial and academic communities maintaining liaisons with regulatory and research agencies as well as educational, treatment, and prevention facilities in the drug abuse field… [and as] a collaborating center of the World Health Organization.”

At its annual meeting in June, the CPDD shares the newest and best research findings on drug dependence and abuse.  The subject is vast.  But given the extent to which many of the various families of psychoactive drugs disturb judgment and motor coordination thereby endangering “users and others in a wide range of activities from disturbed interpersonal relationships through to accidents in the operation of motor vehicles, aircraft, trains, and heavy equipment,” research relating to impaired driving is bound to be forthcoming from such a gathering.
This year, the Los Angeles Times reported from the CPDD meeting on the “first study of its kind” indicating that “a frightening number of drivers are not fit to drive.”  Although most would say this barely sounds like ‘news’, the point appears to be that there are new numbers.  The report says, “Researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and two other institutions …randomly [sampled] drivers’ sobriety in the 2007 U.S. National Roadside Survey. Authorities stopped drivers at 300 locations in 48 states during four periods on Friday and Saturday nights.  At 60 of the locations, drivers were stopped during a daytime period. … Among daytime drivers, 11% were positive for drug use based on saliva tests; 6% of daytime drivers tested positive for illegal substances.”
In contrast, “14.4% of nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs; 10% of drivers tested positive for illegal drugs.  Alcohol was found more than any other drug, with marijuana coming in second.”  The next phase of the National Roadside Survey will look at the extent to which drug use is related to crashes.
Other new research concerned legalized medical marijuana usage and fitness to drive, the research suggesting that states with legalized medical marijuana programs may have even higher rates of drivers under the influence of the drug.  In one recent survey, 819 Californian drivers supplied saliva samples, and 8% were positive for marijuana.  Of all those who tested positive, the majority had medical-marijuana permits. Most of the drivers with medical-marijuana permits tested positive. The original researchers called for more studies focusing on the effects of marijuana use on driving.
If the latest impaired driving research from such an eminent scientific body failed to capture more headlines and inspire more mainstream media commentary, not so the death of ‘Jackass’ star Ryan Dunn and his passenger in a crash at 3 am on Monday, June 20th. Dunn was driving a 2007 Porsche reportedly at speeds of more than 210 kmp when it went off the road into the woods in suburban Philadelphia and burst into flames. Dunn’s blood alcohol level was tested at 0.196, over twice Pennsylvania’s legal limit in of .08.
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