Maryland Awarded Grant to Combat Drug-Impaired Driving

News Release, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

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GHSA and Responsibility.org Provide Grant for Increased Training for Drug Recognition Experts and Toxicology Units

GLEN BURNIE, MD (July 7, 2020) – As part of a state and national focus to prevent motor vehicle crashes due to drug-impaired driving, the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office has been awarded a grant of nearly $45,000 from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, also known as Responsbility.org. The grant will help fund advanced training and skill development for Maryland law enforcement agencies to detect drivers under the influence of drugs.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of all who travel on Maryland roads,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “We are honored to be selected by GHSA and Responsbility.org to receive this grant and look forward to being able to provide more tools to eliminate drug-impaired crashes on Maryland roads.”

Maryland is one of seven states awarded the Diving Under the Influence of Drugs and High-Risk Impaired Driving grant. Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 26 people were killed and nearly 800 injured each year in Maryland crashes involving a driver impaired by drugs (includes illicit drugs and medications). Over that same period, drug-impaired driving arrests increased 87 percent. With incidents of drug-impaired driving on the rise nationwide, it is necessary to train officers to recognize driver impairment. The grant funding will benefit these programs:

The Maryland Department of State Police Forensic Sciences Division Toxicology Unit will train officers on instruments and software used daily in the Toxicology Unit.

A course in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement funded by the grant will train 15 to 25 law enforcement officers – state police and others who qualify – to observe, identify, and articulate signs of impairment related to drugs, alcohol, or both. This course will also train criminal justice professionals – such as prosecutors and toxicologists – to understand the signs of impairment and effectively work with law enforcement to prepare court cases that can result in appropriate sanctions for offenders.

A Drug Recognition Expert course funded by the grant will help to qualify law enforcement officers across Maryland better detect and remove drug-impaired drivers from state roadways. The 40 officers who complete the course will be able to determine if a subject is impaired, if the impairment is the result of an injury, illness or drugs, and determine, if drug-related, what category of drug or drugs is the likely cause. The course is approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In December 2019, GHSA released High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat, a report focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with the high-risk impaired driver. The report identified a 16 percent increase over the past 10 years in the number of alcohol-impaired drivers killed in crashes who also tested positive for drugs (Nordstrom, 2019)

Even with lower traffic volumes on America’s roadways during the COVID-19 emergency, concerns about impaired driving remain.

“Vehicle miles traveled fell drastically during the pandemic, but this decline didn’t result in improved safety on our nation’s roadways,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Alcohol and drug impaired driving persisted, with prevention experts warning the problem may worsen as people continue to worry about contracting the virus, recover from the economic fallout and adhere to social distancing requirements. All are triggers for substance use, making this grant program even more important.”

Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.