To Help Fight Drugged Driving.
The second part of the MADD mission is the newest. It was officially added in 2015, but we were working with victims of drugged driving long before that day. MADD added the wording to our mission to ensure everyone knew of our commitment not only to supporting those impacted by drugged driving but also to educating and ending impaired driving in any form.
Why do we need to help in this fight? Because drugged driving is taking lives on our roadways. And the number is growing. With the legalization of marijuana in states and the growing misuse of prescription drugs, we are seeing an uptick in the numbers of drugged driving deaths. There are still many challenges when it comes to fighting drugged driving. And that is where MADD comes in, to put our support and our resources behind the fight.
Drugged driving is not necessarily new, but how we fight it is. Among the challenges, technology. States have quickly legalized drugs without the information and technology available. Currently, we count on the expertise of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s) to evaluate impairment if there is suspicion of a drug-impaired driver. While they are the best at what they do, they are a limited resource. The training is intensive so some areas may only have one or two to cover a very large area. Which means if a DRE is working one case, they can’t be on the scene of another if it comes up. On top of that drug evidence quickly processes through the body, making the job of a DRE even more difficult. Roadside testing technology is being developed and piloted but is not yet ready for mass use. The cost can also be prohibitive based on labs in the area that are certified to run the appropriate panels.
The next challenge. Public perception. For some reason there are a large number of people who firmly believe there is no danger in driving while high, in fact, many seem to believe they are safer drivers. Many think that if you are driving under the influence of “illegal drugs” you are not ok, but legal drugs are fine. But, that is untrue. Driving high under the influence of marijuana is incredibly dangerous and so is something as simple as driving under the influence of certain prescription drugs. Here at MADD, we have an uphill battle to educate the public on the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs. We have made great strides in helping our communities realize driving under the influence of alcohol is unsafe. But, we are just at the beginning of the process for drugs.
Another big challenge when it comes to drugged driving is the lack of historical data. While we know this is not a new problem, it is one we have just started researching. Lack of availability and technology kept law enforcement from collecting all the data. Many times drugs and alcohol are combined, and when an offender was over .08 that was where the investigation finished. Now that we are learning more, we keep digging and get more information so we can learn about what drugs are used and how they affect driving. But, we have a long road ahead to collect all the data we need to both educate and expand technology.
We know if we want a future with No More Victims, we can’t stop at ending alcohol-impaired driving. We must find a way to stop drugged driving as well. That is why MADD added this to our mission and that is why we will continue to do all we can to educate ourselves and others on this emerging trend.