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January/February 2015 Issue

Percentage of drugged drivers rising

Historically overlooked, drugged driving has become an increasingly hot topic in the overall battle to reduce impaired driving because studies show that more people under the influence of drugs are driving–and dying–on the road.

The dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol are well known, and it is encouraging that the number of drunk driving deaths generally has been in decline since 1982. Yet because of a decrease in overall traffic fatalities in the last decade, the percentage of drunk driving deaths compared to all traffic deaths has plateaued at about 30 percent.

Meanwhile the percentage of drugged drivers is rising, many of whom don’t realize that drugs can affect drivers just as much as alcohol. Like alcohol, drugs–even in small amounts–can negatively affect motor skills, balance, coordination, perception, attention, reaction time, and judgment.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey in 2009 found that 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug–an increase from 13 percent in 2005. And in the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 10.3 million people, or 3.9 percent, reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the year prior, up from 3.7 percent.

Drugs and alcohol often are used in combination, and drugged driving figures are almost certainly underreported because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed or not taken at all.

“Whether it’s legal, illegal, or over-the-counter, people just don’t appreciate how dangerous these substances can be when it comes to their driving,” said National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Member Mark Rosekind. His organization has used “Reaching Zero” as its motto since adding “Eliminate Substance-Impaired Driving” to its top 10 transportation safety priorities in 2013.

Increased discussion also is being held at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Noting the severity of the issue, AAA has announced its intention to focus on substance-impaired driving as a single issue, recognizing that alcohol and drugs should be addressed together–rather than independently–as causes of impairment. In addition, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety plans an increased focus on impaired driving research.

As part of the effort, AAA is embarking on a comprehensive educational effort for the public in 2015 to examine drugged driving and its effects.

“We know impaired driving is something that members really care about,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. “It frequently shows up among their top safety concerns in our surveys.”

In the AAA Foundation’s 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 56.3 percent of drivers surveyed perceived that “drivers using drugs” are a somewhat or much bigger problem than it was three years earlier. And 60.9 percent said that people driving after using illegal drugs are a very serious threat.

Two more questions to which “zero” is the ultimate answer.

blurred driving

A 2012 survey found that 10 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the prior year.


Assess the safety of your vehicle with free inspections

The safety of your car starts with its condition, so AAA is joining with its network of Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities to offer free maintenance inspections from Jan. 1–March 31.

Available at participating AAR facilities, the free inspections will include the most important components of your vehicle, including tires, fluids, hoses, belts, brakes, and battery. The inspections will help members know if their car is safe and ready for spring and summer travel, as well as if there are any preventable breakdowns.

The Approved Auto Repair program was established 40 years ago to address one of the most frequent consumer complaints: unsatisfactory vehicle repairs. To qualify for the AAR program, shops must maintain high professional standards for quality and service. AAA refers members to AAR shops to help them find repair facilities they can trust.

Members receive a 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor guarantee of service on mechanical repairs at AAR facilities. In addition, members qualify for a 10 percent discount (up to $50) upon request on regularly-priced parts and labor.

To find a participating shop near you, call (877) 742-6859 or click on


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