During 2018 in the United States 12.6 million Americans reported driving under the influence of marijuana or other illicit drugs.1 According to the U.S Department of Transportation impaired driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or substances.2
Impairment continues to be a leading cause of motor vehicle crashes. In recent years, almost 40% of all crashes in New Hampshire involved driver impairment. From 2009-2018, 354 people were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in New Hampshire.3 Driving while impaired by any substance can be deadly. We know a lot about alcohol's effect on driving. However, there is more research needed to fully understand the impacts of drug use and polysubstance use on injuries and deaths involving a crash.
Next steps for addressing drug-impaired driving include:
Development, evaluation, and further implementation of strategies to prevent alcohol, drug, and polysubstance-impaired driving.
Standardized testing for alcohol and drugs among impaired drivers and drivers involved in fatal crashes. Adequate resources for toxicology laboratories are required for such testing.
Strategies to reduce or prevent alcohol-impaired driving:
Alcohol-impaired driving laws make it illegal to drive with a BAC at or above a specified level (0.08% for New Hampshire). For people under 21, zero tolerance laws make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems. These laws, along with laws that maintain the minimum legal drinking age at 21, are in place in all 50 states and DC and have saved tens of thousands of lives.
Publicized sobriety checkpoints allow police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to check drivers impairment.
High-visibility saturation patrols consist of a large number of police patrolling a specific area, usually at times and locations where alcohol-impaired driving crashes are more common.
Ignition interlocks for all, including first-time, convicted offenders can be installed in vehicles to measure alcohol on drivers’ breath. Interlocks keep vehicles from starting if drivers have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) above a certain level, usually 0.02%.
Alcohol screening and brief interventions take advantage of "teachable moments" and can be delivered in health care, university and other settings to identify people at risk for alcohol problems and get them treatment as needed.
Multi-component interventions combine several programs or policies to prevent alcohol-impaired driving. The key to these comprehensive efforts is community mobilization, which involves coalitions or task forces in design and implementation.
School-based instructional programs are effective at teaching teens not to ride with alcohol-impaired drivers.
Safety Steps to take:
Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver when with a group.
Don’t let your family and/or friends drive impaired
If you have been drinking or using other substances, get a ride home, use a rideshare service or call a taxi.
If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver; offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.