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State of Connecticut Leads the Nation with Highest Drugged Driving Rates
Drugged driving continues to increase throughout the state of Connecticut and the nation. According to last spring’s Connecticut Highway Safety Report from the Connecticut Department of Transportation, nationally forty-three percent of drivers who died in a crash and were tested for drugs, tested positive.
Drugged driving has been a growing problem for teens. They are less experienced and more likely to underestimate how dangerous drugged driving can be. The lack of experience combined with drug use can pose a disastrous outcome. Car crashes continue to be one of the leading causes of death among young people ages 16 to 19 years old. According to a 2016 AAA poll of Connecticut drivers, more young drivers (18-29 years old) said they ‘regularly’ or ‘fairly often’ drove within an hour of using marijuana (23 percent) than the number who said they drove drunk (16 percent) during the same time period.
Connecticut has chosen to tackle drugged driving through various strategies. Last year, AAA held a statewide summit about drug-impaired driving with police, prevention organizations, and community coalitions from across Connecticut. One of the outcomes of the summit was to provide police officers and state troopers advanced training to become Drug Recognition Experts. To date, Connecticut has thirty-one Drugged Recognition Experts across the state. Drug Recognition Experts are trained in a 12-step process to determine if someone suspected of driving under the influence has been using drugs. Community coalitions and prevention organizations have advocated locally for their police departments and state police barracks to train officers as Drug Recognition Experts, in order to increase use of this effective enforcement strategy.
Enforcement is one strategy for reducing impaired driving among teens. Ensuring that youth are educated on the dangerous effects of drugged driving is an equally important strategy. Included in this issue of Prevention Connection are several resources for educating young people on the impact of impaired driving, as well as on healthy decision making. The Governor’s Prevention Partnership’s E3: Encourage, Empower, Engage program for high school students, sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, also works to prevent underage drinking and substance use and impaired driving through a peer-to-peer approach. For more information or support on using any of these strategies, please contact Monique Price-Taylor, Program Manager, Peer-to-Peer Prevention Initiatives at Monique.Price-Taylor@PreventionWorksCT.org or 860 (757-3592).