The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released a startling new report. The data suggests that about 1 in 5 drivers who were killed last year in car crashes tested positive for drugs.
"Drugged driving is as inexcusable as drunk driving or driving irresponsibly," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
Researchers are just beginning to understand the problem. Strickland said the data did not allow them to know whether the influence of drugs caused fatal crashes. He said testing procedures were evolving and many states and communities test for different drugs or use different types of tests.
Many drugs can affect a driver's judgment and reaction time but researchers are still trying to determine the level of drug use that can impair a driver's ability to drive safely. A blood alcohol level of 0.08 is the legal limit for all 50 states but a similar level of impairment is uncertain for many drugs.
The commonwealth needs to work on this problem and take it as seriously as it does DUI/DWI alcohol-impaired driving. I think if Virginia lawmakers use education and enforcement on the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs, many lives will be saved. Giving law enforcement officers testing procedures and standards for detecting drug use by drivers would be a great start.