November 2014


marklowequoteWhere does your mind go when you consider the issue of drugged driving? Perhaps you:

  • Consider the research and statistics. Information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides sobering (no pun intended) figures: Under a 2012 survey, an estimated 10.3 million adolescents and adults reported driving under the influence of an illicit drug in the prior year. A 2007 national roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that “more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs.” Additionally, a 2009 NHTSA study found that “18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription or over-the-counter drug,” a figure that probably underreports the connection between drugged driving and fatalities due to inconsistent performance of blood tests for drugs other than alcohol.
  • Consider the challenges and obstacles. As Drugged Driving Research: A White Paper, a 2011 research paper prepared for NIDA, ably describes, the current challenges are daunting and include: a lack of quick, reliable field testing technology; an inability to set reliable impairment levels that apply evenly across the spectrum of operators; the sheer number of drugs (illegal, prescription or over-the-counter) that can contribute to drugged driving; and the rising challenge presented by medical and recreational cannabis laws.
  • Consider the lives affected and lost. I’m sure we have all encountered real and visceral examples of drugged driving. In Iowa, prominent examples in just the last few years include a person under the influence of prescription medications who drove more than the length of a football field through a backyard before tearing straight through a house, killing a woman sitting on her couch; a person under the influence of marijuana who flew past an oncoming stopped school bus, killing a 7-year-old girl crossing the road to board the bus; and a person under the influence of marijuana who drove through a park, hitting and dragging a 14-year-old girl 75 feet and leaving her with critical injuries. These real examples are perhaps the most compelling call to effectively curb drugged driving.

Wherever your mind goes, it should rest assured that the AAMVA community—a community dedicated to safe drivers, safe vehicles, secure identities and saving lives—is a community with the position, experience and capacity to help effectively answer this call, much as this issue’s feature article suggests. Whether through traditional means (accident reporting, data collection and sharing, research, education, enforcement and interdiction, best practices, model legislation) or evolving means (new rapid testing technologies, connected and autonomous vehicles that detect and mitigate impaired drivers or driving behavior), I have full confidence that the AAMVA community will exercise the persistence, dedication, ingenuity and collaboration needed to effectively mitigate drugged driving.

It’s always my honor to address you. As always, please stay safe in all that you do.  

Mark Lowe

AAMVA Chair of the Board