Governors Highway Safety Association rebukes Drug Czar on drugged driving

I found this article at The Auto Channel that, at first, would seem to be in support of the ONDCP’s effort to use driving laws as a back door method to criminalizing internal possession of marijuana.

Oct. 13, 2011: The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced today that it has strengthened its drugged driving policy during its recent Annual Meeting, held September 25-28 in Cincinnati. The new policy supports elevating drugged driving to a national priority and calls upon states to undertake several strategies to address this emerging highway safety issue.

Yep. Sounds like the Drug Czar has been doing a good job pushing his agenda.

But here’s where it differs. Kerlikowske has been pushing for states to establish per se laws on drugged driving (criminalizing even the slightest amount in the body whether or not impairment was involved).

In fact the priorities are clear at the ONDCP’s site:

  • Encouraging states to adopt Per Se drug impairment laws;
  • Collecting further data on drugged driving;

Standard ONDCP stuff: pass laws first, then find research to support those laws.

But check out what the GHSA calls for:

Amend statutes to provide separate and distinct sanctions for alcohol and drug-impaired driving;
Develop standard protocols or procedures for drug testing labs to use in identifying drugs that impair driving;…

That doesn’t sound like a throw-them-all-in-jail approach. And then…

In addition, GHSA is calling for much more drugged driving research. Studies are needed to understand the scope of the problem, to improve field testing of drugged drivers and to set impairments standards. According to Harsha, “Any countermeasures for drugged driving must be based on research and data. The highway safety research community should make this a priority.”

Oh no, the Drug Czar isn’t going to like that.

See, I talk about this drugged driving thing a lot, and it’s not that I’m in favor of people driving impaired. I’m not. But I do think it’s critical that any policies that are used are based on actual data, not the irrelevant statistics that the Drug Czar uses as fear tactics.

And I don’t think that reformers should be afraid to challenge the Drug Czar on his fact-free assertions in this area simply because some people lacking the ability of nuance might view this as being pro-impaired-driving.

The fact is that the drugged driving scare has the potential of diverting attention in a way that could make driving more dangerous. And the main purpose of it appears to be part of the multi-pronged attack on marijuana legalization and medical marijuana (don’t let them have guns, cars, jobs, banks, landlords, unemployment insurance, etc.).

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25 Responses to Governors Highway Safety Association rebukes Drug Czar on drugged driving

  1. claygooding says:

    It falls right into the pattern of needing technology to test drivers for impairment,,,step forward Karen Tandy,,I am sure that any day now Motorola/Phillips will start putting ads with police and legislative market targeted for the push Kerli gave them,,,creating the demand.

  2. Servetus says:

    The denial of significant realities is what the ONDCP and DEA tax-burners are paid to do. Without a doubt, the demand by GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha for research and data on drugged driving, in all its sobering objectivity, flies in the face of the cult-like dogmas of the Church of Latter Day Prohibitionists.

    There is only one thing members of the Prohibitionist cult and ONDCP/DEA can do to protest this dreaded invasion of science into their carefully laid schemes. In fact, it’s likely the only demonstration that gains prohibitionists any serious attention at all in the midst of the current OWS demonstrations and various bits of international breaking news will be to perform a much more dramatic public protest. This can take the form of pouring gasoline on themselves and lighting a match.

  3. claygooding says:

    I think all of the above should be tattooed on their forehead with a red star,,to remind America not to ever listen to any of them about dog catching or lighting matches.

  4. Ron Combs says:

    Because of the current pot laws I lost my job.Then i lost my house because i did’nt have a job.Then I lost my wife because we didnt have a house.Now i guess they just realized they forgot my car and my gun.ALLLL over a misdemeanor.

  5. kaptinemo says:

    Don’t these prohibs know there’s a recession/depression going on? Where do they propose to get the money needed to fund their techno wet-dreams?

    With the funding spigot already closed off on the State level, it’s just a matter of time before the demands to re-allocate Federal funding for social safety-net programs are made…fronted by nervous pols worried by the very real threat of political action directed against them that the Occupy movement promises.

    It’s that, or the pols face the same unemployment that far too many in this country ‘enjoy’, for people are getting mean, now. They’re going to be more worried about feeding and sheltering their kids rather than have the money going to some bureaucrat whose sole purpose in life (aside from keeping a cushy job with perks) is to ‘protect’ their brood from some chimeric boogieman of a ‘dope dealer’. And they’ll want their pols to be equally concerned…or else.

  6. Anon says:

    Interesting situation in Toronto. Canadian law severely restricts drug testing, but a Len Bias-type event in the summer (driver had fatal accident, found pot in his bag later) fanned the moral panic flames. The local transit authority approved random, suspicionless testing. The union isn’t pleased.

    TTC approves random drug testing

    Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear threatened legal action and accused the TTC of misleading the public.

    “The testing they’re proposing will not determine impairment. It will, however, determine what has been consumed by that individual over the last three weeks … . Sleep deprivation is probably our biggest impairment within the (transportation) industry,” he said.

    Kinnear stressed that the union doesn’t want to see workers impaired on the job, either.

  7. Pingback: Governors Highway Safety Association rebukes Drug Czar on drugged driving – Drug WarRant | Insurance by State

  8. antifascist says:

    The drug war, like the original reefer madness campaign, was based upon huge lies about marijuana, without which there would have been no justification for such a high budget. When are the majority of American people of all classes going to realize that the “shoot first, ask questions later” policy of the fear-mongering right-wing has a hidden agenda that is clearly antidemocratic and anti-American and should never be trusted again?

    I, for one, am sincerely hoping the the OWS has included this on its list for economic reforms. Ending the drug war and especially the war on marijuana could save the tax-payers and the govt over 5 billion per year, and that’s just the beginning.

  9. uff the fluff says:

    I’d really like everyone’s opinion on this study. It seems to simply prove that young people are inexperienced and risky drivers who also seem to do other youth-oriented activities. Am I simply biased and pot use at any time really does increase accident risk somehow?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      I recall one bogus study that purported to prove that current use causes deterioration of driving ability, and spent quite a lot of effort hammering away at the “lane tracking error” of drivers who had enjoyed cannabis before driving.

      Lane tracking error? WTF is “lane tracking error?” Should we really believe that if these drivers were exhibiting actual weaving indicating significant impairment that they would have used “lane tracking error” to describe that behavior in their officially sanctioned mumbo jumbo?

      Every year I get a letter from my auto insurance company thanking me for being such a safe driver and noting that I’ve earned the lowest premium available because the money only flows in their direction and that’s the way they like it. I’ve gotten over 20 such letters from the company (USAA).

      The problem with studies of potential impairment caused by cannabis consumption is that they try to stuff everything into a pat, one size fits all answer and it just doesn’t work that way. I’ll put up the last 3+ decades of my driving record against anyone. But in reality the first two years it was a very poor choice to drive when stoned. There is most certainly a difference between someone who has been enjoying cannabis for a short period of time and people who have figured out how to compensate for the distortion. The former is a menace to highway safety. The latter is almost certainly enhances highway safety.

      I still recall the time when I decided that I wanted to drive around with a glass almost filled with liquid on my dashboard, and to drive smoothly enough so as to never spill a drop. It practically drove a dear friend of mine to tears on day when we went on a road trip to New Jersey. Well it’s possible, but isn’t worth the effort.

    • Francis says:

      Yeah, what Duncan said about experienced tokers versus noobs tracks what I’ve heard. Also, here’s what I posted when I first saw that study:

      1) According to the study, the use of cannabis increased a driver’s risk of being in an accident 2.7 times. Two minutes on Google informs me that having a B.A.C. of 0.08 (i.e., right at the legal limit) increases one’s risk of being in an accident 11-fold. And driving while texting evidently increases your crash risk 23-fold. (That’s why I took the Oprah pledge.) So given that context, this is a pretty modest finding.

      2) My understanding of impairment studies conducted under lab conditions is that they show moderate impairment combined with generally adequate compensation. In other words, people impaired by cannabis tend to recognize that they’re impaired and make adjustments like driving more slowly. In contrast, people who are impaired by alcohol frequently do NOT recognize their own impairment and may actually drive faster. Not surprisingly, alcohol impairment has a dramatic impact on the likelihood of a fatal crash. Thus, even if cannabis impairment does increase your overall risk of an accident, I’d be very surprised to see a similar increase in fatal accidents. (And it makes a huge difference if we’re talking about doubling the risk of death or a fender bender.)

      3) I wonder to what extent multi-drug use (cannabis plus other drugs) is a confounding factor and how well this was controlled for.

      4) I wonder to what extent we’re just dealing with different populations, i.e. are people who are more likely to use marijuana more likely to be in accidents? I’d imagine that marijuana users are more likely to be young, male, and prone to risk-taking. I’m also guessing that these characteristics increase one’s risk of being in an accident. I would hope that these differences were controlled for in the study, but were they and how well?

      5) And finally, even if were shown that cannabis significantly increased the risk of an accident, that’s an argument for making driving while impaired illegal. It’s NOT an argument for asinine per se “drugged driving” rules based on nearly undetectable levels of trace metabolites. And it’s sure as hell NOT an argument for criminalizing the possession or sale of cannabis altogether.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        If the only reason to criminalize cannabis is to prevent cannabis addled driving, by definition you are willing to put a congenitally blind person in jail in order to enhance highway safety, and that’s not only absurd, it’s just plain wrong.

  10. gravyrug says:

    “And the main purpose of it appears to be part of the multi-pronged attack on marijuana legalization and medical marijuana (don’t let them have guns, cars, jobs, banks, landlords, unemployment insurance, etc.).”

    Apparently, the Prohibitionists won’t be happy until everyone who uses non-state-approved drugs are some form of drag on the economy. If not in jail, then unemployed and broke.

  11. Francis says:

    One thought, if we are going to pass per se drugged driving laws setting permissible levels for various drugs in one’s system, we shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of the type of drug that’s causing impairment. Right now, the legal limit for drunk driving is a B.A.C. of 0.08. According to the interwebs, someone who is right at that limit is 11 times more likely to be in an accident. So let’s find the amount of active THC it takes to raise the risk of an accident 11-fold and set that as the legal limit. (I wonder how close you’d have to come to the mythical 800 joints that are supposedly required to cause a fatal overdose in order to achieve a similar level of impairment.)

    • darkcycle says:

      By the time you got close, you’d be curled up in a fetal position and be unwilling to grasp the keys.

    • allan says:

      I’ve been meaning to say… welcome to the couch Francis, you’re a thoughtful, well spoken young man. I appreciate your peculiar… rrr… particular insights.

      I like that idea of establishing an across the board equitability factor. Kind of an LD 50 for intoxication…

      And there needs to be an exhaustion test. Folks get tired and that white line can get hypnotic and exhaustion is one of the leading causes of both vehicular and workplace accidents.

      Roughly figuring, I’ve driven well over one million miles in the last 40 years. When I was young I drove (occasionally) under the influence. It doesn’t make me proud to admit but it is what it is. I do know tho’ that alcohol is the worst substance to drive under.

      I’ve had 2 accidents that were my fault. In one I fell asleep (at about mile 400 in a 500 mile non-stop drive) and the other I was in the midst of the termination of a long time relationship and was totally distracted when I ran a red light in front of a 4 lane, one-way, 45mph zone mass of cars). I’ve never had an accident while dui. And in those 40 years and over 1 million miles I haven’t had a ticket.

      Driving is like consuming a substance but requires far more detailed study and practice (substance consumption takes little of that). I know that one way I don’t want to die is a twisting mass of crumpling metal at 60 mph. Yuck.

      I will gladly volunteer to be a cannabist test subject for a dui (cannabis) study.

      The sight of Pete’s post… came simultaneously with my view of the news Moammar took a 9 to the 3rd eye. And while the death of Moammar certainly bodes something, reading about Kzar Droop Dogg getting rebuked just tickled me to the core. In fact I smoked on it.

      The wwweb is a wwwonderful thing sometimes – the wwweb long ago became unsafe for Prohibitionists. But now… now there are exponentially more numbers of us and we are educated on the topic and not shy about speaking up and setting the record straight. And that’s kinda our bottom line, yeah? Setting the record straight?

      Hemp for Victory!

      Hemp for Health!

      Hemp for Fun!

      I’m sure glad I’m not a Prohibitionist… y’all would be pithing me off about now. Keep it up.

      • Francis says:

        Thanks Allan!

      • Duncan20903 says:

        allan, when we were young DUI just wasn’t such a concern. In the ’70 where I live it was common knowledge that if a cop pulled you over and you were drunk, that if you didn’t act like a dick it was almost carved in stone that he would either let you park your car and call for a ride home or if it wasn’t too far would agree to follow you home to make sure you got there safely. Now how the heck does a person following a drunk insure safety? It’s even more baffling when one drunk follows another for that purpose.

        The specific reason per se drunk driving “limits” were adopted was precisely because the public didn’t view drunken driving as being a particularly bad thing, and people, particularly those with money could take the charge to a jury which was likely to acquit. Not because they thought the defendant wasn’t drunk, just that they didn’t think it criminal. That we went out driving impaired back then isn’t particularly shameful because we just didn’t know any better, and our (lack of) understanding was validated by the community as well as those charged with enforcement. There’s a lot of things I would do differently if I could go back in time and apply what I’ve learned since. I’m still waiting on the time machine company to start selling their products. The CEO has promised* that soon he’s going to travel back in time to today and give himself the schematics and then we won’t have to worry about such petty annoyances anymore.

        (*You might think I’m kidding, I’m not. In the late 1990s there was a company selling stock to that end, with the CEO actually stating that’s how the company would get the plans to make their time machine. You really can fool some of the people all of the time. I made a nice little profit on that stock betting against the idiots.)

        Francis, everyone calls per se levels a “limit” but you can (theoretically) be convicted of impaired driving at .02 BAC. It’s more accurately described as a floor than a limit. Blowing .079 isn’t going to see the cop say, “have a nice night, drive safely” and send you on your way. All the per se limits do is make the work of the cop and the prosecutor easier as all they have to do is to prove that you had exceeded the per se limit to gain a conviction. At .079 they’re going to actually have to prove impairment. At .08 they just present the test results and you’re done. But god forbid the police or prosecutors should actually have to do any real work. Quite frankly the reasons for per se laws have been eliminated as the public just isn’t of the ‘oh boys will be boys’ attitude toward impaired driving like they used to be, as well as in dash video cams so the jury can actually see the accused falling all over himself drunk.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Really, it’s almost certain that if you did inhale enough to kill you it would be from carbon monoxide suffocating you.

      Please, let’s try to remember that a “joint” is not a standard unit of measure.

  12. claygooding says:

    I will help you test that Francis.

  13. primus says:

    The other alternative is to find the level of alcohol that increases the risk of accidents by a factor of 2.7, then make that the legal limit for that drug. That would mean a BAC of about .03. About one beer. Bars and lounges should love that—as they go bankrupt.

  14. Duncan20903 says:

    We might consider using the experience of the Virginia Legislature and “per se” “drugged” driving laws. If you look at their law you’ll notice there isn’t a per se level for cannabis. The reason for that is because they determined that they couldn’t establish an actual per se level for cannabis which was scientifically supported. Nobody except a lunatic would think to accuse the powers that be in Virginia of being “soft on crime” or of being in the habit of mollycoddling criminals. They wanted to make a per se cannabis driving law, very much so.

    In March, the Virginia Legislature approved per se DUID legislation, HB 1896, for certain controlled substances, including cocaine and methamphetamine. THC is not referenced in the bill. HB 1896 awaits the Governor’s signature.

    Also from the link above:

    “Every state needs a law…defining, in essence, a crime divorced from impairment; …that says if you use an illicit drug and drive, you have broken the law. …We need to treat DUID as important [an offense] as murder, rape, and child molestation.”

    — John Bozo, Director, National Traffic Law Center. “Enforcement and Prosecution of Drugged Driving Laws,” speech given February
    23, 2004

    Why are these clowns not in straight jackets? On the other hand it seems they’ve been having a lot of trouble gaining traction. 2004 and they’re still trying to get this idiocy passed in the majority of the States.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Here’s a link to the statute implemented as a result of HB 1896 (2005):

      This was the proposed statute:

      You’ll notice that the proposed law was of the “zero tolerance” variety:

      It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine, or train while such person has in his blood any detectable amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug as defined in § 54.1-3446 or 54.1-3448, unless prescribed by a health care practitioner. For purposes of this section, the term “motor vehicle” includes mopeds while operated on the public highways of this Commonwealth.

      Again, the only particularly important thing about this bill’s change from “zero tolerance” to establishing per se levels for certain substances with the glaring omission of cannabis is the fact that this happened in the Virginia Legislature, most certainly not famous for giving criminals a break. Hell, they fought like cats and dogs when the proposal to raise the value of property required to charge grand larceny rather than petty larceny from $200 to $500 even though inflation had rendered $500 worth less than $200 when the original statute was adopted.

  15. cabdriver says:

    I drove a cab for many years- I’d say at least 10 years between 1985 and 2005, with some breaks for school and other sorts of employment.

    In my considerable observation, at least 95% of the “drugged driving” problem is about alcohol.

    Yet these days, I don’t even support alcohol breathalyzer results as prima facie proof of impairment. Supplemental evidence, yes. But demonstrable impairment has to be there.

    This is the 21st century. Video technology is ubiquitous- and simultaneously more indicative of the signs of impairment, more inexpensive, and less intrusive than chemical tests.

    We’ve all seen some of those episodes of “Cops” with DUI stops, right? The drivers being stopped really are that bad. They aren’t acting.

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