For the first time, more drivers killed in car accidents were more likely to be on drugs rather than having consumed alcohol. Federal officials, as well as Colorado safety officials, are working on a plan to combat drugged driving and the auto accidents it causes.

The Cannabis Conversation Seeks to Discover the Crossover Between the Streets and Prescription Drugs

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is sounding the alarm when it comes to drug addiction and use in the United States. According to the federal agency, drug overdose is the leading cause of death and injury in the U.S. News outlets continue to analyze and report on the nationwide opioid epidemic. Not only are health officials tackling this serious issue, but transportation safety officials are also concerned and for a good reason.

Drugged Driving Just as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

The term “opioid” has been used a lot lately, but what exactly is an opioid drug? Opioids are powerful medications that act on opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. If you take an opioid, like hydrocodone or oxycodone, the medication interferes with pain signals that go to your brain, thus reducing severe pain. While someone recovering from major surgery or fighting a chronic disease may need these powerful drugs, others abuse them.

DHHS notes that in 2016, 42,249 people died from an opioid overdose. What makes this epidemic even more frightening is how many people are abusing opioids, taking them when not medically needed, and then getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. According to a news article, in April 2017, for the first time, more drivers killed in car accidents were more likely to be on drugs rather than having consumed alcohol. As noted in the article, drunk driving has declined, but drugged driving is on the rise.

That’s one reason why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working to launch a new initiative next month that they hope will lead to a national dialogue and call-to-action to combating drugged driving. The new initiative will kick off with a summit bringing together key stakeholders who will share data and policy ideas on how to combat this ever-growing problem. The summit will also explore best practices that can be shared with safety officials from around the U.S. NHTSA hopes the initiative will make the drugged-driving epidemic a top safety priority to ensure those traveling on roads and highways are safe from drugged drivers, and to determine better ways of reducing auto accident deaths related drugged drivers.

Driving While High Is Becoming More Prevalent Under Lax Marijuana Laws

There’s been an ongoing discussion, if not a downright argument, on the impact of marijuana and Colorado drivers who use it before getting behind the wheel. There are those who say there is little impact when someone smokes pots and then drives; there are others who disagree. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that one of its more recent studies show that auto accident claims are higher now than ever before in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. What do all three of those states have in common? All three have legalized recreational marijuana use.

As highlighted in the study, more drivers are admitting to using pot, and that worries safety officials as some studies have shown that marijuana use can more than double a driver’s crash risk. To be fair, other studies exist that report little, if any, link to pot use and auto crashes. Regardless, authorities note that after alcohol, marijuana is the second drug most often found to be present in those involved in car accidents. This statistic is one of many reasons why the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will soon conduct a drugged driving initiative called The Cannabis Conversation. CDOT will lead the discussion and promote an online survey to help it gather more information on cannabis habits and behaviors of those in the state. Through this campaign, CDOT hopes to learn:

  • Why individuals decide to drive under the influence of pot
  • What people perceive to be the dangers of doing so
  • What needs to be done to convince someone not to drive while high
  • And, gather a better understanding of people’s opinions and perspectives.

Authorities say their ultimate goal is to develop practical solutions to a growing a problem of drugged driving, whether it be marijuana or prescription medications.

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