Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

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1 Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Robert L. DuPont, M.D., President, Institute for behavior and Health Testimony on DUID legislation before the Judiciary Committee, Maryland House of Delegates, February 12, 2004 I regret that I cannot be there today to commend you for considering this life-saving legislation to combat driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) and appreciate the chance to share my knowledge with you. Today you are reviewing legislation that will not only improve the safety of Marylanders, but also place our state at the leading edge of a national change that is long overdue. Drug-impaired driving is a problem that endangers everyone who travels in a motor vehicle. Though there is little research in this area, what is available suggests that DUID is similar in magnitude or larger -- to the problem of drunk driving. According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse), released in September of 2003: almost 11 million Americans drove under the influence of illegal drugs in the past year; the drugged driving rate was at least 10% for persons between the ages of 17 and 25; 21-year-olds were the age group most likely to drive under the influence of drugs, with 18% reporting such behavior during the previous year

2 The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) found that, of the nearly 4 million high school seniors in the United States: approximately 1 in 6 that s 600,000 students drove under the influence of marijuana, a level nearly equivalent to those who drive under the influence of alcohol (640,000); in 2001, an estimated 38,000 of students reported being in auto accidents while driving under the influence of marijuana, while 46,000 reported crashing after drinking alcohol. The 2002 SADD/Liberty Mutual annual survey gathered information from 1,600 middle and high school students nationwide and found that: 68% of the participants drove after using marijuana, while only 48% (of those who drink regularly ) went out on the roads after drinking; The majority of licensed teen drivers (68%) who use drugs regularly report they drug and drive ; More than half the teens (57%) that are using drugs are not concerned about riding in a car with a driver who is using drugs. In Maryland, we do not have to speculate as to whether DUID is a threat on our roads. Recent research by Michael J. Walsh, Ph.D. reveals that drug-impaired driving is a significant problem for Marylanders. His studies resulted in valuable information which Dr. Walsh has discussed in detail in his testimony to this Committee. His finding that drugs were present in over 50% of the drivers taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center tells us that the DUID endangers us all. Clearly, action is essential. Reducing DUID requires a comprehensive, integrated response that provides help to offending drivers while protecting the citizens who could be harmed by their actions. For long-term success, actions to clear the roads of drugged drivers should include:

3 1. A per se standard. Illicit drug use, unlike alcohol use, is always illegal. While drivers can legally use some alcohol legally, there is no parallel for drugged driving. This distinction makes the per se standard appropriate for prosecuting drugged drivers. 2. Drug testing that is simple, accurate and cost effective. Fighting DUID requires drug tests that use the full range of technology currently available. In addition, there must be built-in flexibility to reflect the evolution of technology. 3. Drug testing for all drivers who test positive for alcohol. Impaired drivers frequently abuse more than one substance. Therefore, those who are guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and another drug have violated more than one law and should be penalized accordingly. Treating the different types of impairment separately will result in increased penalties and increased deterrent value. 4. Evaluation and treatment approaches that build on and extend the systems currently in place for alcohol abuse evaluation, education, and treatment. 5. Follow-up testing to ensure that offenders abstain from drug use for a period of time (1-2 years) after their conviction. This would be possible through the use of hair testing which can monitor drug use for up to 90- days. Addressing the problem of drug-impaired driving will not be easy. Change will not come quickly but we must get started. The bills before this committee reflect several steps that can make a difference. I am very glad to support all of them because each has features that would improve the safety of all Marylanders. (Below, I have noted specific information that pertains to each bill.) While they include a variety of approaches to the same problem, all represent important progress in the fight against DUID. Please take this opportunity to move these bills closer to becoming Maryland law. Thank you for the chance to comment on this legislation.

4 Bill 371 Makes it a misdemeanor for a person to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle while the person has any amount of a controlled dangerous substance in the person's body; defining "impaired by a controlled dangerous substance per se. The problem of drug-impaired driving has much in common with that of drunken driving, so we can learn much from the lessons of that experience. However, there is a fundamental difference that must not go unnoticed. Since alcohol is a legal substance, there is great difficulty in determining how much is too much. Simply proving its presence in a driver s body is not enough to determine that a law has been broken. This is not the case with drug-impaired driving. The substances in question are illegal, so any use is illegal use. There is no middle ground when it comes to illicit drug use. This reality opens the door to the logic of a per se standard such as the one included in Bill 371. I fully support Bill 371. Bill 372 Alters specified evidentiary provisions to include tests for drug or controlled dangerous substance content of urine. Provides for suspension of a driver s license or a disqualification of a commercial driver s license for a refusal to submit to a urine test for drug or controlled dangerous substance content. In order to get drug-impaired drivers off of our roads, we must be able to identify them accurately, quickly, easily and cost-effectively. Current laws requiring blood testing add unnecessary logistics, time and cost to the process of apprehending and prosecuting drugged drivers. Developments in modern biotechnology have made accurate, affordable urine tests widely available. By permitting the testing of urine, a practice long in effect in federal and corporate drug testing programs, this law would bring Maryland into alignment with commonly accepted standards in the field. I support Bill 372. Bill 373 Requires the Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend the driver s license of a person who is convicted of drug-impaired driving more than once in a 5-year period.

5 Employing graduated sanctions is a cornerstone of treatment and this version of it in legislation ensures that multiple offenders will receive increasing penalties for continued DUID. Further, this measure will remove chronic drugged drivers from the roads, at least temporarily. I support Bill 373. Bill 374 Provides that sentences imposed against a person for multiple violations arising out of the same incident shall be imposed consecutively if the person is convicted of both a specified alcohol-related driving offense and drug-related driving offense. Dr. Walsh has shown that 40% of injured drivers in Maryland who violated drunken driving laws ALSO violated the drugged driving laws. Ensuring that drugged driving and drunken driving sentences are served consecutively is essential to discouraging this practice. Further, this change in the law helps establish the understanding that violating both the drunk driving and drugged driving laws is a more serious offense than violating only one of statutes. I support Bill 374. Bill 375 Repealing the right of a person not to be compelled to submit to testing for alcohol, drugs or controlled dangerous substances under certain circumstances; making test refusal a misdemeanor that results in penalties and points against a Maryland driver s license. Drug testing for DUID suspects is an essential part of establishing the facts and achieving a conviction. Penalties for refusal are appropriate and reasonable. I support Bill 375. Bill 376 Requiring the court to order a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene evaluation of the defendant prior to imposing a period of probation before judgment; ascertaining through this evaluation whether the defendant needs or would benefit from treatment; This bill includes an important measure that holds broad potential for long-term decreases in drug-impaired driving. Incorporating mandatory evaluations for DUID

6 defendants increases the chances that people in need get appropriate treatment. I support Bill 376.

7 About the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. The Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., (IBH) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization focused on drug abuse treatment and prevention. Incorporated in 1978, IBH has operated continuously, conducting research and disseminating information. IBH s founder and President, Robert L. DuPont, M.D., is one of the nation s leading authorities on substance abuse prevention and treatment. He was Director of the White House Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP), the position now referred to as Drug Czar, under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He was also the founding Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In addition to his leadership of IBH, Dr. DuPont is a practicing psychiatrist specializing in addiction and anxiety disorders. IBH has a long-standing interest in the issue of drugged driving. More than 12 years ago, IBH conducted two separate projects on attitudes toward the use of illegal drugs and driving. One preliminary study found that drivers participating in the court-ordered driving while intoxicated (DWI) programs thought that alcohol impaired their driving ability but that illegal drug use did not. The second study found a clear disparity between self-reported current drug use and actual use as shown by positive urine drug screens. These two pilot studies were reported as Letters to the Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Subsequently, IBH has been involved in projects evaluating multiple technologies for drug testing in a variety of settings. The IBH Web site ( discusses the issue of drugged driving in the context of new ideas in drug abuse prevention policy. IBH s recent activities involve raising awareness of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) among opinion leaders in Congress, federal agencies, public policy organizations, related corporations and other advocacy groups. IBH has convened meetings of a core group of interested individuals, informally known as the DUID Working Group, to share information and discuss solutions.

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