December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month
Friday, December 14, 2018
It is a message that needs to repeatedly loudly and often: do not drive impaired. The holiday season is a time where there are frequent preventable tragedies due to impaired driving.
For that reason, December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) encourage the message.
Annually since 1981, every president in the United States has declared December as a month of concern because the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has been described as "one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America's roadways due to an increase in impaired driving."
On average, 29 people in the United States die each day in motor vehicle crashes that involve the use of alcohol. Every year, more than 10,000 lives are lost to drunk driving at a cost of $44 billion.
States that have legal adult use of marijuana are expressing additional concern about the increasing rates of fatal injury where the driver was impaired by marijuana.
Colorado has an extensive library of resources to assist groups participating in the educational programs related to marijuana impaired driving. This includes a tip sheet on how to spot an impaired driver.
Despite the increasing rate of fatal injury attributed to marijuana impaired drivers, there remain few options for law enforcement to use roadside to objectively determine fitness to drive. Unlike alcohol, there is no breathalyzer, although a saliva testing mechanism may be on the way soon.
Research related to functional impairment to drive remains limited. Early preliminary study shows that vision is acutely impaired with marijuana use. There is significant impairment to safely drive if a user is unable to see pedestrians, traffic signals or stop signs. The rate of fatal injuries to pedestrians has gone up in those states with legal adult use of marijuana.
In the annual proclamation for 2018, President Donald Trump commented, “Every American can take a few simple steps to make our roads safer. We hope every driver commits to making responsible and safe decisions when driving, including driving sober, finding a designated driver, and keeping loved ones from getting behind the wheel while impaired. By educating our communities on the importance of driving sober, we can help avoid loss of life, debilitating injuries, and unbearable heartache. We must act to protect our loved ones and eliminate fatalities that prevent our fellow Americans from enjoying full and happy lives.”
The proclamation went on, “I urge all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.” Good advice to all.
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