Drugged Driving

Drugged Driving in the United States

Drugged driving poses threats to public safety, as evidenced by the number of fatal crashes each year on our Nation’s highways.

Americans are all-too familiar with the terrible consequences of drunk driving. We also are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of driving with distractions such as text messaging or talking on a cell phone. Working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other Federal agencies, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is taking steps to highlight the growing problem of drugged driving.


The National Drug Control Strategy includes a goal of reducing drugged driving in the United States 10% by the year 2015. Specifically, ONDCP aims to make preventing drugged driving a national priority on par with preventing drunk driving. To work toward this goal, the Strategy calls for:

  • Encouraging states to adopt Per Se drug impairment laws (see below);
  • Collecting further data on drugged driving (see below);
  • Enhancing prevention of drugged driving by education communities and professionals;
  • Providing increased training to law enforcement on identifying drugged drivers; and
  • Developing standard screening methodologies for drug-testing labs to use in detecting the presence of drugs.


It is well known that drugs, even those prescribed by a physician, can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory. Recent surveys have shown how pervasive drugged driving has become in the United States.

The National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, a nationally representative survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that in 2007, approximately one in eight weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illicit drugs.

Moreover, approximately one in eight high school seniors responding to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) reported driving after smoking marijuana within two weeks prior to the survey interview. These results highlight the scope of drugged driving in America and reinforce the importance of reducing all drug abuse.

Research documents include:

  • Drug Testing and Drug-Involved Driving of Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States: 2005-2009: An ONDCP analysis of 2009 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) census, which shows that roughly one in four (23 percent) of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs were under the age of 25. Additionally, based on data from 2005 to 2009, almost half (42 percent) of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under the age of 25.
  • Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers: The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States, contains a number of variables to describe drug involvement for those in fatal crashes. Overall, 3,952 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement in 2009.
  • Drugged Driving Research: A White Paper: The Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH), with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and ONDCP, developed a white paper that summarizes the information currently available about drugged driving and provides a perspective regarding future research needs. IBH convened an expert committee to develop this report, which included top leaders across a broad spectrum of related disciplines such as research, public policy, and law enforcement.

Reducing Drugged Driving and Protecting Public Health and Safety

Thanks to increased public awareness and effective law enforcement, Americans have seen a
significant drop in the prevalence of drunk driving over the past several decades. Today, amid
increasing concern about all forms of hazardous and distracted driving, the Obama
Administration is focusing on the growing problem of drugged driving, or driving after drug use.
Working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other Federal agencies, the Office of
National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is taking steps to address the issue.

Drugged driving poses threats to public safety, as evidenced by the number of fatal crashes each year on our highways. Law enforcement officials see the tragedies that too often result when people take drugs and drive. Fortunately, trained Drug Recognition Experts can help to identify drugged drivers and make the U.S. roadways safer.

Research demonstrates that drugs, even those prescribed by a physician, can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory – critical skills for safe and responsible driving. Recent surveys have shown how pervasive drugged driving has become in the United States.

Compelling Evidence

The National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, a nationally representative
survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that 16 percent
of weekend nighttime drivers (roughly 1 in 6) tested positive for illicit drugs or medications in
2007 (see chart, above). Moreover, approximately 1 in 8 high school seniors responding to the
2011 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey reported driving after smoking marijuana within two
weeks prior to the survey interview.

Equally disturbing are 2011 results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicating that 9.3 million Americans aged 16 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year.

Data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) show that 1 in 3 deceased
drivers with known drug-test results tested positive for drugs (illegal substances as well as overthe-counter and prescription medications). Fatally injured drivers under age 35 are overrepresented in drug-involved crashes; they represent about 40 percent of all fatally injured
drivers but 46 percent of drug-involved fatally injured drivers.

Marijuana is frequently involved in fatal traffic crashes and drugged driving in general. In 2009,
marijuana accounted for 25 percent of all positive drug tests for fatally injured drivers for whom
drug-test results were known and 43 percent among fatalities involving drivers 24 years of age
and younger with known drug-test results.

In a study published in the journal BMJ, Canadian researchers found that driving under the influence of marijuana significantly increases the risk of motor vehicle collisions, especially fatal collisions, compared with unimpaired driving.

The Administration’s Response

The Obama Administration recognizes the seriousness of the issue and is taking steps to
reduce drugged driving. For example, President Obama has drawn much-needed attention
to the issue of drugged driving by declaring December National Impaired Driving
Prevention Month in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The President’s goal is to reduce drugged
driving by 10 percent by 2015. To reach this mark, the Administration is working to
advance initiatives to improve public awareness, enhance law enforcement training,
improve screening methodologies, and collect more comprehensive data to support
effective policy-making.

Addressing the Public Safety Threat

The Administration continues to support successful substance-abuse prevention programs,
combined with public education and penalties for those who fail to comply with the law, as
important tools to reduce the public safety threat of drugged driving.

These include two DOT initiatives:

  • Over the Limit. Under Arrest – an effort to reduce impaired driving.
  • The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program, which aids state and local
    jurisdictions in detecting and arresting drugged drivers. The DEC program also provides
    training to prosecutors and judges in the prosecution of drugged drivers.

Other Federal programs focus on drug abuse prevention, including the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which offers free online resources to help prevent drugged, drunk, and
distracted driving among teenagers, and the Drug-Free Communities Support program, which
helps communities identify and respond to local substance abuse problems.

Other Iniciatives

Per Se Drug Impairment Laws:

  • States are considering enhanced legal responses, such as per se (“zero tolerance”) laws.
  • If an individual is stopped for driving erratically and tests positive for a drug, per se laws
    make it easier to keep that driver off the road.
  • Seventeen states already have per se statutes.
  • ONDCP is working to educate and provide technical assistance to states
    advancing per se legislation.

Strengthening Partnerships:

  • In October 2011, the Administration convened a drugged driving summit that brought
    together a wide coalition of stakeholders.
  • MADD has launched a national effort to provide support to the victims of poly-substance
    abuse (both alcohol and drugs) and drugged driving.
  • RADD: The Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety is working to raise awareness of the dangers of drugged driving and to produce educational programming for youth.
  • ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske addressed the National Transportation Safety Board
    (NTSB) during its Substance-Impaired Driving Forum in May 2012. NTSB announced
    that Substance-Impaired Driving would be one of its top advocacy priorities.
  • In August 2012, the Governors Highway Safety Association announced its support of
    drugged driving per se laws and enhanced penalties for driving under the influence of
    multiple drugs.
  • ONDCP and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals have been working
    together to increase drug court and DWI court professionals’ awareness and
    understanding of the prevalence of drugged driving in their jurisdictions.
  • Drug and DWI courts can provide an intervention point for identifying substance use
    disorders and linking court clients with evidence-based treatment services, which help
    address problems relevant to a client’s psychological, social, or legal state. Treatment
    promotes behavior change and helps individuals abstain from using drugs and maintain a
    drug-free lifestyle in their workplaces, communities, and behind the wheel.

Increased Training for Law Enforcement:

  • Law enforcement plays a critical role in reducing drugged driving.
  • The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program (ARIDE) is a 16-hour
    training course that gives officers additional skills to recognize signs and symptoms of
    drugs other than alcohol. The Administration is developing an online version of ARIDE that will make it moreaccessible to law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

Improving & Collecting Data:

  • Research initiatives will enhance understanding of drugged driving and guide policymakers.
  • The next iteration of the National Roadside Survey, typically conducted every 10 years,
    has been accelerated so data will be available to assess the Nation’s drugged driving goal
    in 2015.
  • NHTSA is conducting a study to estimate the risk of being involved in a crash after
    having consumed drugs (both illegal drugs and prescription medications). Data collection
    for the study is complete, and results are expected in 2013.
  • The Administration is supporting driving-simulator research to examine driving
    impairment as a result of marijuana and combined marijuana and alcohol use and
    correlate the findings with the results of oral fluid testing.

Drugged Driving in the Criminal Justice System

This section covers the topics below related with Drugged Driving :

Impaired Driving



See Also

  • Impaired Driving

Drugged Driving: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Drugged Driving. This part provides references, in relation to Drugged Driving, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Drugged Driving by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Drugged Driving and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Drugged Driving or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Drugged Driving and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Drugged Driving. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Drugged Driving should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Drugged Driving when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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