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Moore, Joan (2010) Drugs in focus – policy briefing. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 32, Winter 2009, p. 26.

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Extract from Issue No. 20: Responding to drug driving in Europe 
Many of the accidents and deaths that occur on European roads are caused by drivers whose performance is impaired by a psychoactive substance. Alcohol alone is estimated to account for up to 10 000 road deaths a year in the European Union, one quarter of all road deaths. No comparable figures are available for road accidents related to illicit drugs and psychoactive medicines, though these have been receiving increasing attention over the past decade. ... 

The complex issue of drug driving is currently being investigated by DRUID, a major EU project that began in 2006 and will continue until 2010. DRUID aims to provide a solid basis for harmonised, EU-wide regulations for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and medicine. Until then, this policy briefing summarises the key issues facing policymakers and describes developments across Europe that may assist decision-making on the topic.
Key issues at a glance sues at a glance
1. Reports of drug driving incidents often receive much media attention. But, few countries have reliable statistics on the prevalence of driving under the influence of drugs.
2. Obtaining sound scientific evidence on behavioural effects, prevalence and accident risk is difficult with the available data. Many of the studies have small samples and it is often difficult to generalise from their results.
3. Reflecting the scientific debate about the precise effects of the substances, the legal definition of the offence of driving under the influence of drugs differs among EU Member States.
4. Various psychoactive medicines, which might or might not be legally prescribed and consumed, can impair driving skills.
5. Currently, police experience considerable difficulty with the accurate and rapid identification of drug driving at the roadside.
6. The effectiveness of information campaigns to prevent drug driving is open to question. Key audiences may not be hearing the message, or they may be ignoring it.
Conclusions and policy considerations
1. Surveys on the prevalence of drugs in drivers need to be conducted in all EU Member States. Testing all drivers involved in a fatal accident for drug and alcohol use would provide an important source of information for monitoring the problem.
2. New guidelines on study design are available that take into account the variety of legal and practical constraints in different countries. They aim to improve comparability among studies and may facilitate exchange of best practice.
3. Policymakers should consider the latest scientific information available when designing legal responses. The level at which a driver will be deemed in breach of the law should be clear for all stakeholders and the public.
4. National laws and their enforcement need to strike a balance between concerns about ensuring road safety and the therapeutic needs of individuals.
5. Legal frameworks require review, as even with the limitations of existing testing methodology, more effective procedures are possible. And, new options are likely to become available.
6. Prevention campaigns should target specific risk groups and substances; be based on scientific evidence; and rigorously evaluated for impact on behaviour and attitudes.
Drugnet Europe is the quarterly newsletter of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Drugs in focus is a series of policy briefings published by the EMCDDA. Both publications are available at www.emcdda.europa.eu.
If you would like a hard copy of the current or future issues of either publication, please contact:
Alcohol and Drug Research Unit, Health Research Board, Knockmaun House, 42–47 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 2345 127; Email: adru@hrb.ie.
Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 32, Winter 2009
18 January 2010
Page Range
p. 26
Health Research Board
Issue 32, Winter 2009
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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