Richard Hastings of Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, attended the Drugged Driving Summit at Goodwin College in East Hartford, Connecticut which was hosted by AAA and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Highway Safety office. He was able to speak with a number of individuals who attended the summit, including:
- Governor Dan Malloy
- Michael Bzdyra, Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner
- Amy Parmenter, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA
- Jake Nelson, the Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research Director for AAA
- Dr. Robert Forney the Director of Toxicology, Lucas County,
- Ohio Corners' Office
- University of Toledo Allied Health
- Members of the law enforcement community and public health arena
The summit highlighted the deadly problem of drugged driving which is plaguing our state highways. The collaborative presentation was meant to identify challenges and discuss solutions that will ensure the safety of all motorists who use our roadways.
The Dangers of Drugged Driving
Interestingly, our nation's campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make our roads safer but the use of marijuana and prescription medication is increasingly prominent and creates new safety questions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that, since 2007, drivers with alcohol in their system declined by more than one-third but the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs has increased significantly. In one 2014 survey, it was determined that 25% of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect their safety.
Some interesting facts that were presented for our review were as follows:
- Nearly 50% of all Americans reported taking at least one or more prescription drugs in the last 30 days
- Only 25% of drivers consider driving under the influence of prescription drugs a serious threat
- Over the past 10 years, the number of Americans taking at least one prescription drug has increased by 10%
- The use of multiple prescription drugs has increased by 20%
- The use of five or more prescription drugs has increased by 70%
- Prescription drugs were found in 46.5% of drugged drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes
Four types of drugs primarily found in incidents of drugged driving:
- Illegal drugs
- Over-the-counter medication
- Prescription drugs
- Controlled substances
These medications can affect driving because people that use them have trouble staying awake or alert to their surroundings, they have difficulty in maintaining control of their vehicle, they have difficulty in concentrating on the task of operating a motor vehicle and changes in their demeanor often present themselves. One very useful resource that was provided to us was the website www.AAA.com, where you can insert the medications which you are using and it will provide you with a printout of how those could be affecting you.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
One takeaway from the summit was that when you receive a prescription for some type of medication it does not mean that you have permission to operate a motor vehicle because you could be impaired as a result of taking that medication or multiple medications.
Make sure you check with your doctor and pharmacist about the adverse effects that each drug or drugs that you are taking could have upon you especially as it relates to your operating a motor vehicle. As we get older, we are more likely to take some type of medication, or multiple medications, to provide us with some type of relief for age-related health challenges.
Please be very careful when taking any type of medication and be sure to have these talks with your loved ones especially young people who can fully understand the great risks that go with using any type of drug, including marijuana, and in operating a motor vehicle.