New for 2015, MADD is expanding its mission to take on the deadly effects of drugged driving. While we know that we still have our work cut out for us when it comes to eliminating drunk driving, we knew it was time to take that experience and apply it to the issues surrounding drugged driving. MADD has provided victim services to those impacted by drugged driving for many years. Now we can provide those families with hope – much like we have to victims of drunk driving for the past 35 years.
New National President Colleen Sheehey-Church’s son Dustin drowned after the car he was riding in, driven by a teen with alcohol and drugs in her system, crashed into a river, trapping Dustin in the vehicle. (Read their story here.) But her story is far from unique.
A 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 18 percent of drivers killed in car crashes tested positive for one or more prescription, over-the-counter, or illicit drugs. Even the smallest amount of a drug can interfere with coordination, reaction time, perception and judgment. Mixing drugs with alcohol can worsen impairment and increase the risk of crashing.
However, since this is an emerging issue, there are a number of challenges that must be overcome and issues that must be addressed before the problem can be solved:
- Drugs include both the legal and illegal variety, causing confusion among the public as to what qualifies as drugged driving.
- No drug-specific fatality numbers or arrest data currently being uniformly collected.
- No impairment levels defined for each drug and the mere presence of drugs does not equal impairment.
- Testing for drug impairment and specialized law enforcement training programs to detect impairment costly.
These are precisely the areas that MADD plans to address first.
Because there is a common overlap between drunk and drugged driving issues, laws and initiatives, we feel this expansion of our mission is natural and hope to apply our learnings from the fight to stop drunk driving to aid the prevention of drugged driving.