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Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month

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Approximately 24.6 million Americans 12 years of age and older (9.4%) were reported to have used an illicit drug during the past month in 2013 (NIDA, 2015).   (This figure includes marijuana.)  In the same year, “17.3 million Americans (6.6 percent of the population) were dependent on alcohol or had problems related to their alcohol use” (NIDA, 2015).  While drunk driving is always due to the effects of alcohol consumption, drugged driving may involve illegal substances such as heroin, or legal prescription medication such as sedatives. Here at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, our goal is to inform you about how alcohol affected-driving versus driving affected by other ‘illicit’ drugs are similar in their adverse effects, yet unique in their differences.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of 0.08 percent or higher were involved in over 9,000 fatal crashes in 2010 (NHTSA, 2012).   Young adults (ages 21-24) were particularly likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash, with 34% of fatal accidents in this age group involving alcohol (NHTSA, 2012).

The following illustration is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse publication, Drugged Driving in Older Adults (2015):

Similar to alcohol consumption, marijuana also impairs the driver.  Researchers have found an association between marijuana’s active ingredient Tetrahudracannabinol (THC) and poorer driving performance manifest in longer response times and slower driving speeds in a dose-response relationship (Ronen, et al, 2013; Brady, 2013). The effects of combining moderate doses of alcohol and moderate doses of marijuana resulted in a dramatic decrease in driving performance and increased the level of impairment from a 0.4 BAC (alcohol alone) level up to a 0.14 BAC (alcohol and marijuana combined) level (Ronen et al., 2013).  Marijuana is now legal for medical use in 23 states and for recreational use in three states and the District of Columbia; but there is, to date, little research into the effect that legalization will have on impaired driving rates.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are effective policies available which can reduce drunk and drugged driving (CDC, 2015a).

In Indiana sobriety checkpoints are allowed, permitting police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to see if the driver is impaired (CDC, 2015b).  Police may stop all or a certain percentage of drivers and offer a breath test if the driver appears to be intoxicated.  Police may suspend the license of a driver who tests at or above the legal BAC limit or who refuses testing (CDC, 2015b)

These policies have been effective in reducing drunk and impaired driving among teens and adults. According to SAMHSA, there has been a steady decline from 14.2 % in 2002, to 10.9% in 2013 (SAMHSA, 2015).  The following table illustrates the decline of driving under the influence from 2002 to 2013.

In an effort to mitigate drunk and drugged driving in your community, here are a few suggestions based on ideas from Substance and Mental Health Service Administration and the NCAPDA (2015):

  1. Find and partner with other community members who are concerned about drug and alcohol abuse/misuse.
  2. Network with resources that are most supportive and strategize about awareness campaign opportunities. Send letters of support to retailers, the local newspaper, parent(s) or guardians (see attachments).
  3. If your town/city doesn’t have any or enough prescription drug/drop-off sites, work with your local police department to establish them.
  4. Conduct local youth-oriented contests, video, poster, T-shirt, etc. to engage students and generate awareness.
  5. Hold a Pep Rally at the local middle or high school and have a walking contest using Drunk Goggles.

The Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) library has additional resources to help you combat drugged and drunk driving in your community. For more information, please visit our website at www.drugs.indiana.edu. From the staff of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!



Brady, J.E. & Li, G. (2013), Trends in alcohol and other drugs detected in fatality injured drivers in the United States, 1999-2010, American Journal of Epidemiology, 179(6), http://doi.10.1093/aje/kwt327, 692-699.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015a). Injury Prevention and Control: Motor Vehicle Safety. What Works: Strategies to Reduce or Prevent Drunk Driving. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/strategies.html on December 3, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015b). Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Indiana.  Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/impaired_driving/drunk_driving_in_in.pdf on December 3, 2015.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2012). Traffic Safety Facts (2012). http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811606.pdf

National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse (2015).  Get Involved:  Communities.  Retrieved from http://ncapda.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=42&Itemid=75.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015). Drug Facts: Nationwide Trends. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends on December 7, 2015.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015). Drugged Driving in Older Adults.  Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving on December 4, 2015.

Ronen, A, Gershon, P., Drobiner, H., et al. (2013). Effects of THC on driving performance, physiological state and subjective feelings related to alcohol. Accident and Prevention, 40(3), 603-934.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association (2013). Sample Letters to Community Stakeholders and the Parents, Retrieved from http://www.drugs.indiana.edu/repository/CSAP_PFP_ActionGuide.pdf pp. 162-165.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association (2015), Figure 3.5: Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol in the Past Year among Persons Aged 12 or Older: 2002-2013. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.htm#fig3.5 on December 3, 2015.

By Julius Lee 12/30/2015