Addressing driving under the influence of drugs to prevent traffic deaths

March 30, 2012 – According to the World Health Organization, about 1.3 million people worldwide die on the roads each year. There are about 50 million wounded and many are handicapped for life. In addition, ninety percent of highway deaths occur in developing countries. More worrying is expected that these numbers will increase to the extent that developing countries recorded a steady increase in the use of vehicles.

Although alcohol is the most widely used mostly psychoactive substance and has more records among motorists, there is growing concern because of increasingly frequent reports of deaths in traffic related to the use of medications or illicit drugs. It is known that drugs, including those prescribed by doctors, can affect perception skills, judgment, motor ability of drivers and memory – all essential skills for safe and responsible driving.

The resolution of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs came after the proclamation of March 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declaring the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. This announcement records the growing problem of driving under drug use poses to road safety, especially in developing countries, and includes as one of the pillars of the action call for safer roads users. This will be achieved, inter alia, through the development of integrated programs of road safety, implementation I the improvement of legislation and standards, increased awareness and educational programs to stabilize and then reduce global indices estimated of road deaths by 2020.

Compared with driving under the influence, studies on driving under the influence of drugs are just beginning. Research conducted in North America and Europe try to quantify the risks of driving under the influence of drugs, but there are few comprehensive studies on the subject. There are no consistent and comparable data on the nature and extent of drug use by drivers to develop policies and programs that can be shared between countries as an effective way of prevention.

Resolution of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs encourages all Member States to support national and international efforts to collect data on the global prevalence, as established by law for the protection of relevant data, and to develop effective options for testing on roads to control the direction under the influence of drugs, always in accordance with the legal framework of each country.

Police officers have a key role in reducing driving under the influence of drugs, and need to expand training of law enforcement officials on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of use of other drugs, other than alcohol.

As important as data collection and training for law enforcement is the need to sensitize and educate people about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs. While there are numerous campaigns warning about the dangers of driving under the influence, there are few campaigns to date that directly address the risks of driving after drug use.

“We need to develop specific and effect for each group of messages, as driving under the influence of drugs refers to different demographic groups such as young people who smoke marijuana while driving, and older drivers who may be taking medication prescribed by different reasons, “said Michel Peron, director of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA). The CCSA works to provide national leadership, scientific analysis and advice to promote efforts to reduce harm related to alcohol and other drugs. The CCSA was one of the organizers of the First International Symposium on “affected by drug guidance”, held in US in July 2016.

UNODC will work to incorporate knowledge about public safety issue of driving under the influence of drugs over the next support programs, which should include knowledge of the legal situation, methods of law enforcement and the risks associated with driving under the influence of drugs for drivers and the general public.

In addition, the Office will work closely with Member States in developing national responses to address affected by drug management through studies and control of the magnitude of this phenomenon at the national level and by exchange of information and best practices, effective responses.