A new report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association reveals that for the first time “drugged driving” has now surpassed drunk driving as a factor in fatal crashes. Statistics show drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers in crash fatalities, a 25 percent increase since 2012, according to AAA.
With 3,574 drugged driving crashes in 2016, which accounted for about 33 percent of all impaired driving crashes, this new data validates the concern of motorists.
According to Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand, last year out of 60 O.V.I.-related incidents, only three were alcohol related.
One way the department has been combating drugged driving is by sending two officers to Jacksonville, Florida on a grant to become Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
“We’re hoping that this helps makes the roads safer and gets the message across that drunk or drugged driving isn’t safe. It puts not only the driver at risk, but everyone else,” said Weyand.
The majority of Ohio motorists now view people driving after using illegal drugs as a bigger threat to their personal safety than those driving after using alcohol, according to a survey by AAA. Three out of four motorists surveyed said the use of illegal drugs before driving was a “very serious threat” to their safety compared to 66 percent who said the same thing about people driving after drinking alcohol. Further,
“Public awareness of the drugged driving issue is critical to finding a solution,” said AAA Spokesperson Cindy Antrican. “The new statistics mirror what the public is already feeling which is the dire threat to their safety posed by drugged driving. This is especially significant when you consider the number of years it took to get the public to fully understand the dangers posed by drinking and driving.”
AAA said it supports the call for more training of law enforcement to recognize impairment roadside such as the DRE training and ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement).
To strengthen efforts to reduced drugged driving related traffic crashes and fatalities, AAA is offering the following safety tips:
• Discuss the risks of drugged driving with family and friends in advance.
• If you find yourself substance-impaired and unable to drive, call a cab or someone to pick you up.
• Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.
• Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who is impaired by a substance.
• 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).
• 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.
The News Journal contributed to this report.