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AAA Poll: 72 Percent of Pennsylvania Drivers Concerned about Drugged Driving if Marijuana is Legalized for Recreational Use
AAA Pennsylvania Drugged Driving Summit held to discuss growing threat to traffic safety
PHILADELPHIA, PA (March 30, 2017) – In an exclusive AAA poll, 72 percent of Pennsylvania drivers say they are somewhat or very concerned about the dangers posed by others driving under the influence of marijuana, should it be legalized for recreational use. An overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed by AAA consider someone driving after using illegal drugs a serious threat to their safety.
“Drugged driving is a problem that is quickly – and somewhat quietly – surpassing drunk driving as a major highway safety threat,” said Jana Tidwell, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Because AAA is a consistent champion of road safety, we wanted to start the public conversation about this issue before it’s too late.”
Pennsylvania Drugged Driving Summit
On March 30, the Pennsylvania AAA Federation and the Pennsylvania DUI Association held a Drugged Driving Summit to study the issue and develop an action plan specific to Pennsylvania with the goal of increasing education, enforcement resources, and ultimately reaching zero impaired driving fatalities. More than 150 participants – legislators, law enforcement officials, health care experts, traffic safety advocates, members of the treatment community and national experts among them, gathered to discuss Pennsylvania’s challenges and educate each other to the experiences different agencies experience in dealing with the complex issue.
“As a result of this Summit, we hope to grasp a better understanding of what’s happening in our state from the people who deal with all of the aspects of drug-impaired driving first-hand,” said Tidwell.
“We will be working with all three branches of government, safety advocates and the community to implement the recommendations developed at the Summit,” said Stephen Erni, Executive Director, Pennsylvania DUI Association.
More AAA Pennsylvania poll findings:
Fifty-four percent correctly identify drug overdoses as the leading cause of death in Pennsylvania when asked to choose among overdoses, traffic crashes, shootings and falls.
Only 32 percent believed that Pennsylvania has more incidents of drug overdose than the rest of US. Fifty-three percent think Pennsylvania has about the same number of drug overdoses as other states, while 8 percent think Pennsylvania has fewer incidents.
Surprisingly, the poll of more than 1,250 licensed drivers in Pennsylvania revealed that motorists have quickly grasped the dire threat to their safety posed by others driving under the influence of illegal drugs. This is especially significant when considering the number of years it took to change social perceptions about the dangers posed by drinking and driving.
AAA Research Underscores Danger, Offers Advice
The threat from the legalization of marijuana for recreational use was also discussed at the Drugged Driving Summit. “Drugged driving is the future of impaired driving enforcement and marijuana is its cutting edge. We learned some hard lessons in Washington State. Lessons that could save Pennsylvanian lives,” said Moses Garcia, WA Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor.
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found an alarming increase in the proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had recently consumed marijuana following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington State in November 2012. According to AAA Foundation’s research:
Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana more than doubled – from 8 percent to 17 percent.
One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for active-THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes impairment.
Because of the increasing concern about the negative traffic safety implications and current challenges in discerning and addressing marijuana-related impaired driving, AAA opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and advises states to:
Strengthen their state data collection capabilities related to marijuana-involved impaired driving and drug-impaired driving.
Prepare law enforcement officers to identify marijuana-impaired drivers and increase the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) and Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Training (ARIDE)-trained officers.
Use caution in adopting a “Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana” legal standard and if so, adopt a statutory standard of permissible inference that requires both a positive blood test for active-THC and signs of marijuana impairment as determined by a trained law enforcement officer.
“For whatever marijuana might raise in revenue, its legalization comes at a potentially high cost to society and safety, including new threats on our roads,” Tidwell concluded.
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