Posts Tagged ‘Driving Under the Influence’

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New AAA Foundation Research Also Shows that Legal Limits for Marijuana and Driving are Meaningless

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 10, 2016) – Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. New research also shows that legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, which could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving. Washington was one of the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and these findings raise serious concerns about drug-impaired driving with at least 20 states considering marijuana legalization this year.

The Foundation examined drug tests and fatal crashes among drivers in Washington, a state that legalized marijuana in December 2012. The researchers found:

  • The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.
  • One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana, which is the most recent data available.

“The significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Washington serves as an eye-opening case study for what other states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug.”

In an attempt to enforce drug-impaired driving, some states have created legal limits, also known as per se limits, which specify the maximum amount of active THC that drivers can have in their system based on a blood test. THC is the main chemical component in marijuana that can impair driver performance and affect the mind, and the presence of active THC is generally suggestive of recent marijuana use. These limits are similar in concept to the .08 BAC limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Researchers examined the lab results of drivers arrested for impaired driving, and the results suggest that legal limits for marijuana and driving are problematic because:

  • There is no science showing that drivers reliably become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood. Depending on the individual, drivers with relatively high levels of marijuana in their system might not be impaired, while others with low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel. This finding is very different from alcohol, where it is clear that crash risk increases significantly at higher BAC levels.
  • High THC levels may drop below legal thresholds before a test is administered to a suspected impaired driver. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours because taking a blood sample typically requires a warrant and transport to a facility. Active THC blood levels may decline significantly and could drop below legal limits during that time.
  • Marijuana can affect people differently, making it challenging to develop consistent and fair guidelines. For example, frequent users of marijuana can exhibit persistent levels of the drug long after use, while drug levels can decline more rapidly among occasional users.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment, in the same manner as we do with alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research. It’s simply not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body.”

AAA is urging states to use more comprehensive enforcement measures to improve road safety. Rather than relying on arbitrary legal limits, states should use a two-component system that requires (1) a positive test for recent marijuana use, and most importantly, (2) behavioral and physiological evidence of driver impairment. This system would rely heavily on two current law-enforcement training programs: Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the 50-state Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program. These programs train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving.

“Marijuana can affect driver safety by impairing vehicle control and judgment,” continued Doney. “States need consistent, strong and fair enforcement measures to ensure that the increased use of marijuana does not impact road safety.”

Whether the use of marijuana is legal or not, all motorists should avoid driving while impaired. Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others on the road at risk.

Four states, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 20 states have legalized it for therapeutic and medicinal use. Montana and Washington have implemented a per se limit for marijuana at 5 ng/mL; Nevada and Ohio have set a limit at 2 ng/mL; and Pennsylvania’s is set at 1 ng/mL. Twelve states have strict per se laws that forbid the presence of any levels of marijuana. In Colorado, a blood concentration of 5 ng/mL or more gives rise to permissible inference that a person was driving under the influence of the drug.

This news release promotes two new studies by the AAA Foundation into marijuana and driving:

  • Prevalence of Marijuana Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010-2014
  • An Evaluation of Data from Drivers Arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Relation to Per se Limits for Cannabis

The Foundation also is releasing related research into marijuana and driving, including:

  • Cannabis Use among Drivers Suspected of Driving Under the Influence or Involved in Collisions: Analysis of Washington State Patrol Data
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Marijuana: Beliefs and Behaviors, United States, 2013-2015
  • Advancing Drugged Driving Data at the State Level: Synthesis of Barriers and Expert Panel Recommendations
  • Overview of Major Issues Regarding the Impacts of Alcohol and Marijuana on Driving

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable research and educational organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.  Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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AAA news releases, high-resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Survey Reveals High Tolerance for Drug-Impaired Drivers

Erin SteppWASHINGTON (December 29, 2014) – With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia, safety advocates are increasingly concerned that drugged drivers pose a very serious threat to the safety of American road users.  New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly half of Americans share this concern and report feeling that drug-impaired drivers are a bigger problem today compared to three years ago. With 85 percent of Americans supporting marijuana-impairment laws, the survey reveals that while there’s awareness of this serious issue, Americans are unclear on impairment thresholds, safety implications and legal ramifications.

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“While all states prohibit driving under the influence of drugs, there’s significant variation in the minimum acceptable levels of marijuana or its traces in a driver’s system,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Sixteen states forbid any presence of prohibited drugs, while five others have specific limits for marijuana. With a lack of uniformity, it’s no surprise we found that more than half of American drivers are unaware of the laws that exist in their state.”

The Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index also revealed that, compared to alcohol, American drivers are significantly less concerned about the threat of drug impairment behind the wheel. The survey found that while two-thirds feel that those who drive after drinking alcohol pose a “very serious” threat to their personal safety, just over half feel the same way about drug use.  In fact, one-in-six Americans report that, where they live, most people feel it’s acceptable to drive one hour after using marijuana.

“Federal government research suggests that marijuana can impair driving performance for up to 3 hours,” warned Kissinger.  “Decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times and sleepiness have all been documented driver impairments that result from marijuana use.”

When it comes to prescription drug use and driving, Americans report feeling even less concerned, with just over a quarter reporting feeling the same “very serious” threat to their personal safety.  However, many of these drugs, along with over-the-counter medications, can impair a driver in similar ways as alcohol. Previous studies have found that a single dose of some cold and allergy medications can have the same effect on driving as being above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, and certain antidepressants have been shown to increase crash risk by up to 41 percent.

“Just because a doctor prescribes a drug, or you can purchase it over-the-counter doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to use while driving,” says Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy.  “Always discuss potential side effects and interactions with your doctor or pharmacist before getting behind the wheel.”

To educate drivers on the impact that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have on safe driving ability, the AAA Foundation developed RoadwiseRX – a free, interactive tool that allows users to input various medications and check for side effects and interactions that can lead to driver impairment.

Each year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surveys Americans ages 16 and older about their driving behaviors and attitudes. The goal of this annual Traffic Safety Culture Index is to foster a social climate in which traffic safety is highly valued and rigorously pursued.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Ginnie PritchettORLANDO, Fla., (May 1, 2013) – As everyone searches for their biggest sombrero and makes plans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, AAA strongly encourages to arrange a safe ride home before they partake in any festivities.

AAA works year round to educate motorists about driving practices that will help keep them safe and reduce traffic-related crashes and the injuries that can result.  PreventDUI.AAA.com is an online resource offering impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice.  Once there, AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

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While not a nationwide program, a number of AAA clubs offer Tow-to-Go or Tipsy Tow service on select dates for members and nonmembers. This service is not available everywhere. AAA strongly encourages family and friends to pick a designated driver before they head out on Cinco de Mayo.

*Please note availability is subject to change without notice

The following AAA Clubs offer Tipsy Tow/ Tow to Go programs for Cinco de Mayo:

  • The Auto Club Group (Statewide in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Program is called “Tow-to-Go”)
  • AAA Arizona (statewide)
  • AAA New Jersey Automobile Club (Morris, Essex and Union counties/Program is offered year-round & called Safe Tow)

For a comprehensive list of other community programs listed state by state, please visit AAA’s DUI Justice Link Website

ORLANDO, Fla., (January 29, 2013) – As football fans across America head to Super Bowl festivities this weekend, AAA strongly encourages revelers to arrange a safe ride home before their teams hit the field.

AAA works year round to educate motorists about driving practices that will help keep them safe and reduce traffic-related crashes and the injuries that can result.  PreventDUI.AAA.com is an online resource offering impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice.  Once there, AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

While not a nationwide program, a number of AAA clubs offer Tow-to-Go or Tipsy Tow service on select dates for members and nonmembers. This service is not available everywhere.

The following AAA Clubs offer Tipsy Tow programs for the Super Bowl Game this weekend (February 3):

  • AAA Arizona (Statewide)
  • The Auto Club Group (Statewide in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Program is called “Tow-to-Go”)
  • AAA New Jersey Automobile Club (Program is offered year-round & called Safe Tow)

For a comprehensive list of other community programs listed state by state, please visit AAA’s DUI Justice Link Website.

WASHINGTON, D.C., (December 26, 2012) – As Americans prepare for holiday celebrations, AAA reminds drivers and passengers alike of the dangers on the roads this New Year’s Day, which consistently ranks as the year’s deadliest day for alcohol-related fatalities. To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, AAA is announcing its support of ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, and offers important safety advice to partygoers.

“AAA is not alone in its concern about impaired driving or strong support for tough policies for convicted drunk drivers,” said AAA Traffic Safety Advocacy Director Jake Nelson. According to the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than nine in 10 drivers consider it a serious threat to their personal safety when others drink and drive, and nearly all (97 percent) surveyed find it unacceptable for a driver to get behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink.  To prevent these dangers, nearly eight in 10 Americans support requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.

Research has identified ignition interlock devices (IIDs) as a proven way to save lives. AAA’s recommendation to require the use of IIDs for all convicted offenders is grounded in research.  “Evidence clearly shows that IIDs are more effective than other methods at reducing re-arrest among convicted drunk drivers and keeping them off the road,” said Nelson.

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AAA is reaching out to motorists on the heels of a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) decision to support laws requiring IID use for all first-time DUI offenders—one of several new recommendations issued to help curb alcohol-related traffic injury and death.  “I commend AAA for stepping up for safety,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. “Technologies, such as ignition interlocks, will reduce alcohol-related crashes on our nation’s roadways.  We look forward to working alongside AAA and its clubs to eliminate the nation’s top killer on our roadways – impaired driving.”

Preventing drinking and driving is a shared responsibility to save lives. While AAA advocates expanding IID use to all persons convicted of drunk driving, New Year’s Eve partygoers can do their part by heeding the following advice:

  • Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins
  • Never get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink
  • Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink
  • Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired
  • Call a taxi for a friend in need
  • Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages
  • If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself)
  • Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely

Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com for impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice.  AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

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