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Research Priorities for Reducing Impaired Driving due to Drugs Other than Alcohol

This Research Needs Statement presents the top research priorities for reducing impaired driving due to drugs other than alcohol identified by the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Committee on Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Transportation at its 1999 workshop. Research priorities for reducing impaired driving among other groups of interest including in the general driving population, youth, repeat offenders, and special populations were also established at the workshop and are available on this website. For a full list of research priorities identified at the workshop, refer to TRB Circular Number 502, Alcohol and Other Drugs in Transportation: Research Needs and Priorities.
  • Develop Methodologies and Protocols for Drugged Driving Epidemiology and Risk Assessment; Use the Protocols to Conduct Case and Case-Control Studies
Problem: This idea addresses the basic issues of estimating the size of the drugged driving problem and estimating the effects of different drugs on crash risk. The basic problem is to develop practical methodologies for conducting this research. The best information on drug presence remains the relatively small-scale and very expensive 1992 Terhune study that assayed the blood of fatally injured drivers. It is not feasible to conduct such blood tests routinely or widely.
Objective: This research should develop and test creative methodologies for estimating drug presence in drivers and for assessing how drug use affects driving performance and crash risk. For some drugs it may be possible to link a data set containing information on drug use with crash data. If promising methodologies are found, they should be tested and verified in a larger-scale demonstration.
  • Develop Noninvasive Drug Detection Technology for Use in the Field
Problem: Alcohol use can be measured easily with portable breath test equipment and can be estimated with a passive alcohol sensor. Current private-sector research on drug detection using saliva, sweat, or urine may provide similar capabilities for other drugs. If successful, drug detection through such means would be considerably less invasive than requiring a blood sample.
Objective: This research should build on current knowledge to develop inexpensive, easily used methods for detecting a broad range of drugs. The ideal device would provide rapid results at the roadside.
  • Research the Behavioral and Pharmacological Impairing Effects of Drugs
Problem: Current knowledge of how different drugs affect driving performance is limited.
Objective: This research should concentrate on those drugs most commonly found in drivers (including marijuana, cocaine, and benzodiazepines). Methodological issues are critical. Experiments in the laboratory or on the test track are slow and expensive at best and may not be practical (for example, human subjects cannot be given high doses of illicit drugs). It may be possible to link information from other sources (for example, medical or police records) with driving records.
  • Develop a Field Sobriety Test Protocol Combining Behavioral and Toxicological Information for Alcohol and Drugs
Problem: The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) are used in the field by many law enforcement officers to provide information on whether a driver is impaired by alcohol. There is no similar field test for other drugs. The closest analog, the Drug Evaluation and Classification procedure, is not suitable for use in the field because it requires special equipment and takes too long to administer.
Objective: The ultimate goal of this research is to develop an inexpensive, quick, easily administered field procedure to screen for both alcohol and major drug families. At the very least, the research should determine whether the SFST helps indicate the most common drugs (marijuana and stimulants) and should investigate how the SFSTs predictive ability for these and other common drugs might be improved by using other behavioral tasks or toxicological tests.
  • Explore Secondary Analyses Linking Data on Drug Use and Data from
    Traffic Crashes, Trauma Files, Department of Transportation Drug and Alcohol Databases for the Different Modes, Criminal Justice Records (Violence), and
    Medical Claims
Problem: This idea begins with the databases and asks what can be learned when they are linked. For example, it has been suggested that it is likely that repeat driving while intoxicated or drugged driving offenders are the same people who are arrested for domestic violence and the same people who frequently are injured and require medical treatment.
Objective: The research should begin with one or more databases containing information on drug use and one or more databases containing information on outcomes (crashes, injuries, arrests, etc.) that can be linked. The research should then use these linked databases to investigate all appropriate and feasible questions.

Sponsoring Committee:ACS50, Impairment in Transportation
Source Info:workshop
Date Posted:09/11/2007
Date Modified:09/11/2007
Index Terms:Alcohol tests, Standardized Field Sobriety Test, Impaired drivers, Alcohol abuse, Alcohol use, Blood alcohol levels, Alcohols, Drug abuse, Drugged drivers, Traffic safety, Research projects,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Motor Carriers
Safety and Human Factors
Vehicles and Equipment

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