December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month

The latest statistics show is that drugged driving now surpasses drunken driving. The drugs are more than seven times more frequently found than alcohol among weekend nighttime drivers.

A recent study of seriously injured drivers showed that 51 percent of them were positive for illegal drugs — up from 34 percent in 2009. Of the seriously injured drivers, 26.9 percent tested positive for marijuana usage, while 11.6 percent tested positive for cocaine and a lesser percentage tested positive for methamphetamine or amphetamine.

Many of the seriously injured drivers tested positive for a combination of drugs, usually marijuana and cocaine together. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System provides data of fatal motor vehicle crashes. Of the 12,055 drivers with known test results in 2009, 33 percent were positive for drugs. The number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes testing positive for drugs has risen by 5 percent over the past five years.

The Institute for Behavior and Health Inc. conservatively estimates that 20 percent of motor vehicle accidents are attributable to drugs. Their estimates are that 6,761 Americans died in 2009 as a result of drugged driving. Also, 440,000 people were injured in car crashes because of drugged driving, and the costs of drugged driving are $59.9 billion per year.

Young people are especially at risk for being impacted by drugged driving. Stats again show that 28 percent of high school seniors have put themselves at risk by being in a car where the driver had used marijuana or another illicit drug, or had consumed more than five alcohol drinks.

Among those surveyed, 8.7 percent said they themselves had driven after drinking or using marijuana.

Unlike drugged driving, drunken driving is easily detectable through blood alcohol concentration. Portable breath tests can be used at the roadside and state laws are very specific about the allowable levels of blood alcohol. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04 percent and for non-commercial drivers the limit is 0.08. However, the relationship between illegal drug use and impairment is more complex than the linear relationship between alcohol and impairment. One factor is the drug. The other factor is that these drugs are illegal for everyone, not just for those under the age of 21.

In Hawaii, if you fail a roadside sobriety test which can include anything form standing on one leg, to touching your nose, answering questions and walking a straight line ­— you will be read your rights. A DUI is enforceable for any drug including alcohol that impairs your ability to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. You will be taken to jail. Your car will be towed and impounded. A breathalyser test will be offered and if you refuse to take it, your license may be suspended at that moment. Suspended means you may never get it back.

The DUI penalties for the first offense are between $150 to $1,000. You will be required to enroll in a 14-hour alcohol or drug abuse program and it is possible to end up in jail for up to five days. Your driving license will be revoked for one year and you may be required to perform up to 72 hours of community service. For a second offense within two years of the first one, the fine is between $150 and $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail or 240 hours of community work and a license revocation up to two years. For a third offense, the fine is $500 to $2,500, 10 to 30 days of jail time and permanent driver’s license revocation.

We are entering into the busiest and hopefully happiest time of the year. Don’t drink or drug and drive. Let’s keep this time of year special and full of good memories. Aloha!


Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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