The good news is: the percentage of drunk drivers on the road is decreasing. The bad news is that drivers under the influence of drugs are more prevalent than ever. Many times drugs may impair the ability to drive safely more than alcohol use but drug impairment can be harder to detect. Now it is the return trip from the pharmacy, not happy hour, which increasingly results in a danger to motorists.
A recent governmental survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that there has been a steady decline in the last 30 years of the percentage of drunk drivers. The study compared the presence of drugs and alcohol in drivers since 1973 against the same data in 2007. It concluded that 2.2% of drivers in 2007 were legally intoxicated. This is a decrease from the percentage in 1973 when 7.5% of drivers were found to be legally intoxicated.
That same study revealed a growing problem with drugged driving. According to the survey “16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers were drug positive. The survey focused on weekend nighttime drivers and found that the drugs used most commonly by drivers were: marijuana (8.6 percent); cocaine (3.9 percent); and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9 percent).” The study relied on newer drug screening techniques to detect drug use by examining the presence of drugs in a drivers system. Because drugs can be detected in the system for days or even weeks after they are used the difficulty lies in determining if the drug use resulted in impairment while driving or was merely a positive finding related to earlier drug use. Nevertheless, the surveyors concluded that drugged driving like drunk driving threatens our public health and safety.
The reduction in drunk drivers is attributed to stricter laws and penalties against drunk driving as well as greater enforcement by police and the efforts of anti drunken driving advocates such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD. Apparently these same efforts may be necessary to control the growing problem of legal and illegal drug use among drivers.
Perhaps MADD needs to add a "D” and become Mothers Against Drugged and Drunk Driving or “MADDD”.