published Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

White House official highlights drug danger

NASHVILLE — The White House drug policy director is offering a sobering message about driving while under the influence of drugs. Despite significant progress in the last few decades when it comes to getting drunken drivers off the road, an alarming number of people get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs, Michael Botticelli said Monday in Nashville.

"We see this as a major public health and public safety issue," Botticelli told The Associated Press after speaking at the largest meeting of public safety officials in the nation. It's important, he said, that communities raise awareness of the problem. Botticelli is acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

He cited surveys that show an alarming number of people are taking drugs and getting behind the wheel of a car, especially young people.

A survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that one in eight people driving on the weekend at night tested positive for illegal drugs. Additionally, an Office of Drug Control Policy analysis of NHTSA data from 2009 showed that one in four drivers who was killed in a crash and tested positive for drugs was under the age of 25.

The data also pointed to a significant number of teenagers who smoke pot and then drive. One study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that one in eight high school seniors said they had driven after smoking marijuana in the two weeks before they took the survey.

One of the Obama administration's priorities is to get the number of drugged drivers off the road, he said.

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