The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, chaired by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), held a hearing today discussing the latest efforts to detect and prevent drug-impaired driving.
#SubDCCP Chairman Latta said, “Everyone knows driving while under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and unacceptable, and there are methods to identify and apprehend those who break the law. Unfortunately, the consequences of driving under the influence of drugs has not been elevated until recently, and drugged driving presents new challenges to both law enforcement and health professionals.”
Full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said, “About 1 in 4 traffic fatalities each year, that’s roughly 10,000 lives lost, involves an alcohol-impaired driver. Part of the problem for those trying to detect and prevent drug-impaired driving is the lack of statistics available. Even with all of the advances in vehicle safety and crash avoidance systems in recent years, they are not enough to stop the fatal consequences of driving while impaired, whether by alcohol, marijuana, opioids, or a deadly combination.”
- Dr. Robert L. DuPont, President, Institute for Behavior and Health (Opening Statement)
- Ms. Jennifer Harmon, Assistant Director, Forensic Chemistry, Orange County Crime Lab (Opening Statement)
- Ms. Erin Holmes, Director, Traffic Safety Programs and Technical Writer, Responsibility.org (Opening Statement)
- Ms. Colleen Sheehy-Church, National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (Opening Statement)
Chairman Latta asked Ms. Harmon about the day-to-day obstacles she sees to combating drug-impaired driving.
Ms. Harmon testified, “One of the largest obstacles that we continue to have in California is the relationship that our public has with law enforcement. Law enforcement is key to dealing with drug-impaired driving. Their impairment models that they are using, we have published research that we believe that they are effective, even with drugs like marijuana. The other issue is the resources that the system as a whole has in addressing the type of testing that really needs to be done at a comprehensive level.”
In her opening remarks, Ms. Sheehy-Church told the subcommittee, “In 2015, MADD updated our mission statement to include ‘help fight drugged driving.’ As one of the largest victim’s assistance organizations in the country, we want victims of drugged driving to know that we are here to serve their needs. We also know that the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana, the national opioid crisis, and the prevalence of prescription drugs in our society can only lead to more drug impaired driving on our roadways. What we don’t know, however, is the role of drugs as causal factors in traffic crashes. This is why more research is needed.”
In his testimony, Dr. DuPont expressed concern about whether the current approach to preventing drugged-driving.
He stated, “Although progress has been made in recent years on the recognition of the problem of drugged driving, the current approaches – laws, programs and public education – are grossly inadequate in the context of the national drug epidemic and the expansion of state-based legalization of marijuana.”
The Majority Memorandum, witness testimony, and an archived webcast are available online HERE.