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Tackling Drug Driving to Reduce Road Casualties

A new report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has called for increased levels of enforcement, specialist rehabilitation programmes and more investment in research and data collection to tackle drug driving and reduce road injuries in Europe.

Around 500 people a week die on European roads; 26,000 annually. Drug driving is responsible for a significant share of deaths, with psychoactive drugs detected in around 15% of killed and seriously injured drivers. Between 3% and 16% of drivers say they have driven under the influence of drugs within the last 12 months. The EU average is 11%.

The report highlights that while the effects of different psychoactive drugs can vary, the majority have the same overall effect, which is a decrease in the quality of mental and physiological effort dedicated to the driving task. This leads to a decrease in performance and an increase in the risk of involvement in a collision.

ETSC says that enforcement, including roadside screening and post-collision forensic testing needs to be stepped up.  The primary deterrent factor against drug driving is perceived risk of detection but only 11% of drivers think that on a typical journey there is a big or very big probability of facing a police drugs test.

In addition, education and campaigns, designed to reach target groups such as young males, must be expanded.

“Drug driving destroys thousands of lives every year,” commented Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC. “It’s a complex problem, but one that must nevertheless be tackled. Technology can help, but enforcement, rehabilitation and research are also vital to understanding and tackling this evolving challenge. Governments can learn from each other, and the EU also has a role to play in promoting common standards, better data collection and research.”

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