Feds release flawed report stating that drunk driving is down, drugged driving is up

First, here is the key quote from a story in today’s Chicago Tribune:

There are fewer drunk drivers on the road, but their place has been taken by people high on marijuana and prescription drugs, according to two reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of inebriated drivers has declined by almost a third since 2007, but in a 2014 survey nearly 1 in 4 on the road tested positive for a drug that endangered them or others, NHTSA said.

“The latest roadside survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The survey is a voluntary, anonymous effort to collect information from regions across the country. Road signs tell drivers that a data-collection site is ahead of them, and those who wish to participate pull over. The survey has been taken five times in the past 40 years.

The 2014 survey found that about 8 percent of people on the road on weekend nights had alcohol in their system, and slightly more than 1 percent were above the legal limit. That was 30 percent below the 2007 figure, NHTSA said, and an 80 percent drop since the first survey was taken in 1973.

But the number of people with drugs in their system was found to be on the rise. It jumped from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent of weekend nighttime drivers in 2014. Drivers with marijuana in their system soared by almost 50 percent.

So why do I say that this study is flawed?  Because it equates the mere presence of drugs in one’s system with impairment, which is untrue.  A person could smoke marijuana and test positive for it a month later.  So all this study is showing is that more people are driving around with the residue of drugs in their system, not that they are necessarily driving while impaired from narcotics.

New NHTSA regulation to require backup cameras in all news cars by 2018

From a press release from the NHTSA:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a final rule requiring rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. This new rule enhances the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries caused by backover accidents.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today’s rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents.”

Today’s final rule requires all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. The field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.

“Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. “We’re already recommending this kind of life-saving technology through our NCAP program and encouraging consumers to consider it when buying cars today.”

On average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year caused by backover crashes. NHTSA has found that children under 5 years old account for 31 percent of backover fatalities each year, and adults 70 years of age and older account for 26 percent.

Feds conducting intrusive “voluntary” roadblocks

How would you feel if you came to a roadblock and a sheriff’s deputy asked you to come with him to a room where they asked you whether or not you had drank or used narcotics recently?  And if you would agree to a blood or saliva sample?

From CNN.com:

The roadblocks went up on a Friday at several points in two Alabama towns, about 40 miles on either side of Birmingham.

For the next two days, off-duty sheriff’s deputies in St. Clair County, to the east, and Bibb County, to the southwest, flagged down motorists and steered them toward federal highway safety researchers. The researchers asked them a few questions about drinking and drug use and asked them for breath, saliva and blood samples — offering them $10 for saliva and $50 to give blood.

It’s not just in Alabama. The roadblocks are part of a national study led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is trying to determine how many drivers are on the road with drugs or alcohol in their systems. Similar roadblocks will be erected in dozens of communities across the nation this year, according to the agency.

It’s been going on for decades. Previous surveys date to the 1970s. The last one was run in 2007, and it included the collection of blood and saliva samples without apparent controversy, sheriff’s spokesmen in both Alabama counties said…

And Susan Watson, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the use of deputies to conduct the survey an “abuse of power.” Even though the survey is voluntary, people still feel they need to comply when asked by a police officer, she said.

“How voluntary is it when you have a police officer in uniform flagging you down?” Watson asked. “Are you going to stop? Yes, you’re going to stop.”

The agency said in a statement that the survey provides “critical information” to reduce drunken or drugged driving.

“Impaired driving accounts for more than 10,000 deaths per year, and findings from this survey will be used to maximize the impact of policy development, education campaigns, law enforcement efforts and other activities aimed at reducing this problem,” it said. The program costs about $7.9 million over three years, from planning the study to analyzing the results, it said.

“The survey provides useful data about alcohol and drug use by drivers, and participation is completely voluntary and anonymous,” it said. “More than 60 communities across the country will participate this year, including two Alabama counties, both of which also participated in the previous survey in 2007. NHTSA always works closely with state safety officials and local law enforcement to conduct these surveys as we work to better inform our efforts to reduce drunk and drugged driving.”

The agency said the 8,000 drivers expected to take part will do so voluntarily and anonymously, and researchers follow “a highly scientific protocol and complex statistical design in order to accurately reflect the problem nationwide.”

In the 2007 survey, about 7,700 drivers gave saliva samples and 3,300 gave blood at survey sites run during both day and night. Among drivers who were interviewed at night, 12.4% had alcohol in their systems, while about 16% had used marijuana, cocaine or over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

Read the entire story here:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/19/us/drug-survey-roadblocks/index.html