DAYTON — A startling new poll by AAA found that tri-state motorists now view people driving after using illegal drugs as a bigger threat to their personal safety than those driving after using alcohol.
Nearly three-quarters of motorists surveyed said the use of illegal drugs before driving was a “very serious threat” to their safety compared to 71 percent who said the same thing about people driving after drinking alcohol.
“Public awareness of the drugged driving issue is critical to finding a solution,” said AAA Spokesperson, Cindy Antrican. “These results are startling because they show how rapidly the public has grasped the dire threat to their safety posed by drugged driving. This is especially significant when you consider the number of years it took to get the public to fully understand the dangers posed by drinking and driving.”
Other findings from AAA’s exclusive survey (conducted by Public Policy Polling on June 6-7 in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Margin of error is + / – 4 percent.) include:
• 74 percent of motorists think people driving after using illegal drugs are a “very serious threat” to their personal safety.
• 71 percent of motorists think people driving after drinking alcohol are a “very serious threat” to their personal safety.
• Just 34 percent of motorists think people driving after using prescription drugs are a “very serious threat” to their personal safety.
AAA’s survey was released as the traffic safety advocacy motor club holds the nation’s first regional “Drugged Driving Summit” on June 14 in Blue Ash, Ohio for law enforcement, traffic safety professionals, educators, toxicologists, physicians, and other stakeholders including attorneys and judges from throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) awarded AAA a $20,000 federal traffic safety grant to hold the drugged driving policy meeting.
“The goal of this unique, tri-state summit is to address challenges and discuss collaborative solutions to a critically important and growing danger that threatens the safety of all roadway users,” said Antrican.
The meeting comes just days after Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The bill is set to take effect in 90 days although it is unlikely to be in full effect until 2017 or early 2018. While recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in the tri-state area, AAA is using the policy summit in part to focus attention on the significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana in a number of states.
For example, Washington state legalized marijuana in December 2012 and has seen the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes, who recently used marijuana, more than double from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014 (source: AAA Foundation’s Prevalence of Marijuana Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010-2014).
Additionally, opioid drug use is growing at epidemic levels in many states like Ohio, with Dayton ranking first among U.S. cities for drug overdoses, Cincinnati in sixth place, and Toledo in tenth place, according to cause of death data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and compiled by ArrestRecords.com.
Funding for the policy summit was provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and distributed by the Ohio Traffic Safety Office. It is intended to support the efforts of safety partners statewide and focus on traffic safety priority areas such as restraint use, impaired driving, motorcycle safety and youthful drivers. Representatives from NHTSA, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association and other agencies will join AAA for the one-day summit.
The FFY 2015 competitive grant process solicited grant proposals from state agencies, non-profit organizations, colleges, universities, hospitals, political subdivisions and other interested groups within selected Ohio counties and jurisdictions (based upon the number of fatal crashes).
For more information about OTSO and statewide efforts to improve safety on Ohio’s roadways, visit http://ohiohighwaysafetyoffice.ohio.gov/index.stm