Survey: Drugged driving a growing threat

Drugs confiscated from traffic stop on I-75 in Montgomery County. (File Photo/Ohio State Highway Patrol)
Drugs confiscated from traffic stop on I-75 in Montgomery County. (File Photo/Ohio State Highway Patrol)

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — While driving under the influence of alcohol receives most of the attention, there is a growing concern regarding drugged driving.

Ed Blackwell is a recovering heroin and cocaine addict, 12 years sober, now helping others through the SAARA Center for Recovery overcome their addictions. He says he’s well aware of the dangers of drugged driving.

“I would find myself nodding off,” said Blackwell recalls. “There were many times that I drove under the influence because the drug has you believing that you are OK.”

And while there have been campaigns against drunk driving, drugged driving has not received as much attention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a survey this year showing alcohol related crashes going down while drug related crashes sharply increased.

In Chesterfield, the number of alcohol related crashes from 2013 to 2014 went down while drug related crashes went up nearly fifty percent. There were no fatalities in 2013, compared to three in 2014.

“I created a lot of problems in terms of doing property damage,” said Blackwell.

“Any crash involving a substance concerns us,” said Regina Whitsett with Chesterfield SAFE.

Whitsett says perception might be one problem, and deception another.

“We have heard in focus groups that young people say that the designated driver will use marijuana or prescription drugs instead of drinking alcohol because it can’t be as easily detected by law enforcement,” said Whitsett.

“You can’t drive well when you’re taking drugs that you shouldn’t be taking,” said Chris Konschak with MADD.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving changed their mission statement this year to include “drugged driving” hoping to bring awareness to the growing threat.

“We won’t accept one death as a result of making a decision that’s completely preventable,” said Konschak.

Meanwhile researchers from the University of Akron are working a testing trip to help police detect marijuana in drivers.

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