More training, research needed for Ohio’s drugged-driving crisis


Given how badly Ohio has been inflicted by the opioid epidemic, the latest statistics from the Ohio Department of Transportion on drugged driving are hardly a surprise, but they are alarming. They’re also a call to action for state lawmakers and public safety officials at all levels that more needs to be done to keep our roadways safe.

In 2016, at least 4,615 drug-related crashes occurred on Ohio roads. That’s an 11 percent increase from 2015 and a staggering 21 percent increase since 2013. The Ohio Highway Patrol arrested 14,850 impaired drivers in the first six months of 2017, 3,000 for drugged driving — a 6 percent hike from the first half of 2016.

The problem isn’t simply that the numbers continue to skyrocket. It’s that drugged driving can take on a much different look than driving under the influence of alcohol. Police officers need additional specialized training. Better testing of drivers is also needed, as is more research, Nathan Warren-Kigenyi, manager of traffic safety research and analysis at AAA’s national office said during the Ohio Drugged Driving Summit last week, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Panelists at the summit, which AAA and the Ohio Department of Public Safety hosted, have declared drugged driving a crisis, especially given the opioid epidemic and the legalization of marijuana in some states for recreational and/or medicinal use. In April, The Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility released a report that showed fatalities from drugged driving surpassing for the first time those from drunk driving in 2015.

And yet we still don’t have a firm grasp on how pervasive the problem. More needs done on both the state and national level, including developing more uniform standards on how to determine if a driver is impaired by drugs.

Ohio needs more law-enforcement officers to go through the Drug Recognition Expert program. The Buckeye State took too long to embrace the federally funded program. It became the 48th state to do so when it joined in 2011, according to The Dispatch.

Ohioans can now count drugged-driving among the many reasons to take every possible precaution while traveling. As if the roads today aren’t unsafe enough.

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By The Canton Repository Editorial Board

Gatehouse Media