|Basic CMV Awareness training program|
In an effort to more effectively accomplish the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and busses, the National Training Center, in partnership with commercial vehicle enforcement personnel across the country, has developed a basic CMV Awareness training program.
This program targets the road patrol officer that does not typically make traffic stops on CMVs. The training covers basic CMV awareness and safety to improve the enforcement of basic traffic regulations on large trucks and buses traveling on America's highways.
To ensure that we reach as many law enforcement officers as possible we would like to partner with your agency in making this program accessible in web format. By posting this program on your secure site you are helping to ensure that America's roadways are safer for the motoring public. This training program is not intended for the general public and therefore should be hosted on a members only, secure site.
If you would, please provide me with the contact information where I can send the program including instructions for installing it on your website.
Thank you again for your partnership in public safety.
Safety Programs Manager, National Training Center
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Office: 703 235 0502
Fax: 703 235 0517
|Gadgets share blame for distracted driving , NTSB chief says|
By Angela Greiling Keane
(Bloomberg) -- The top U.S. transportation safety investigator said companies such as Intel Corp. that are investing in in-car information technology are slowing efforts to reduce hazards from distracted driving.
"If the technology producers focused more on what is safe than what sells, we'd see highway fatalities go down," National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said in an e-mailed statement today, as she convened a distracted-driving forum in Washington.
Distracted driving caused by handheld and other electronics in cars has been the top safety priority of Ray LaHood since he became U.S. transportation secretary in 2009. Hersman, whose board operates independently, in December went further than LaHood, calling for a ban on all phone use while driving, even with hands-free devices.
"We have got to dispel the myth of multitasking," Hersman said at the forum. "We are still learning what the human brain can handle. What is the price of our desire to be mobile and connected at the same time?"
Intel, the world's largest maker of semiconductors and computer chips, said last month it is expanding development of in-vehicle infotainment using its technology and its capital unit is creating a $100 million "connected car fund."
John Lee, a University of Wisconsin professor who has studied distracted driving, cited the Intel announcement at the forum as an example of companies focusing on adding technology to cars.
Eyes Off Road
"The pace of change is daunting," he said in testimony to the safety board, citing himself as an example of a distracted driver who has scrolled through a music playlist and taken his eyes off the road. "The pace of change far outstrips the pace of regulatory response."
Intel's work on automotive technologies will include finding ways to make such systems safer, Laura Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara, California-based company, said in an e-mail.
"Intel is working closely with automakers and in-vehicle infotainment suppliers to help integrate advanced technologies into cars to enhance the in-vehicle experience as well as advanced driver assistance systems," she said. "A significant area of focus for the $100 million Intel Capital connected car fund is to accelerate innovation for driver and passenger safety. For example, the fund will invest in startups developing technologies for advanced driver assistance, gesture recognition and sensors."
The Transportation Department last month issued voluntary guidelines for automakers for built-in systems used for infotainment and navigation. The guidelines recommend that no task for drivers take longer than two seconds and that cars be stopped and in park before drivers can enter navigation commands or use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The safety board, which determines causes of crashes in all modes of transportation, hasn't investigated any accidents where navigation systems were found to be a cause, Hersman said at the press conference.
The Association of Global Automakers, a Washington-based group whose members include Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., will tell the safety board later today that anti- distracted-driving initiatives should be based on data.
"When integrating the convenience features demanded by today's consumers, factors such as safety, usability and comprehension are all considered," Michael Cammisa, Global Automakers' safety director, said in a statement. "Our members take a measured approach when designing a vehicle and deciding what features to include."
In 2010, 3,092 people, or 9.4 percent of road fatalities, were killed in crashes related to driver distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
|South Florida Car Accident Lawyer Says Drug-Impaired Motorists Threaten Traffic Safety Progress|
New survey shows many teens don't see that drugged driving is dangerous, highlighting need for awareness campaign, says Stuart's Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney.
Stuart, FL (PRWEB) March 01, 2012
New data shows that teen drivers fail to appreciate the danger of driving while under the influence of illegal drugs such as marijuana, South Florida car accident lawyer Philip DeBerard, III, said today.
DeBerard pointed to a recent survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). More teens in the survey said they had driven under the influence of marijuana than alcohol.
Hard-won safety gains from curbing drunk driving could unravel if young motorists continue to ignore the danger of driving after smoking marijuana or using other illegal drugs, DeBerard said.
"The most frightening thing is that so many young drivers don't think that marijuana will affect their driving," DeBerard said. "They are wrong. They could be putting themselves and others at risk for a serious auto accident."
DeBerard's South Florida personal injury firmrepresents people injured in car accidentscaused by drunk drivers and drug-impaired drivers in Stuart and along the Treasure Coast.
The U.S. has made significant progress on the issue of drunk driving in the past few decades, DeBerard said. He pointed to recently released stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA shows that DUI deaths fell 5 percent in 2010 to 10,228. That marks a roughly 50 percent decrease from 30 years ago.
However, the progress on drunk driving faces a serious threat from the use of marijuana and other drugs, DeBerard said.
Teenagers, in particular, display an increasing acceptance of marijuana, the Liberty Mutual/SADD figures show. Roughly one-in-five teenagers in the survey said they had driven under the influence of marijuana. Only 13 percent said they had driven after drinking alcohol.
The survey also revealed that 36 percent of teens who say they have driven after smoking marijuana believe the drug has no negative impact on their driving abilities. That's compared to only 19 percent of teenagers who said they had driven after drinking and believed that alcohol had no effect on their driving.
"It is clear from these results that the youngest drivers on our highways don't appreciate the tragedies that drugged driving can cause, including life-changing or even life-ending auto accidents," DeBerard said. "We can't stand by as drug-impaired drivers erase all of the gains we have made by reducing drunk driving."
DeBerard cited a recent study published in the British Medical Journal. The study found that people who smoked marijuana within three hours before driving were nearly twice as likely to have a crash.
Another study in Epidemiologic Reviews found that 30 percent of drivers killed in wrecks had drugs other than alcohol in their system. Marijuana was the most common drug.
"Florida and the rest of the country need to get serious about marijuana-impaired driving," DeBerard said. "We need to make sure we have the laws and resources to make the public aware of the dangers of drugged driving. We need to punish those who ignore the risks."
Florida law already outlaws driving under the influence of "any chemical substance" or "any controlled substance" that impairs a person's normal faculties. Driving under the influence of marijuana can fit that definition, DeBerard said.
He encouraged anyone who has been injured by an impaired driver to talk with a qualified Florida accident lawyer. An impaired driving crash lawsuit can allow victims or victims' families to recover compensation for injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and more, DeBerard said.
|Prescription Meds Are Killing Motorists, Authorities Say|
Of the drugged-driving cases involving doctor-prescribed meds that come before the Riverside County DA's office, Xanax, Hydrocodon, Seroquel, Ambien, and medical marijuana are the most commonly implicated drugs.
The scene of a Temecula crash that killed a 9-year-old girl in January 2011. Karen Faye Honeycutt, the child's mother, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for causing the alcohol-and-marijuana-fueled crash that claimed the life of her daughter.
Driving under the influence of prescription meds has become an increasingly deadly problem countywide, says Riverside County Deputy District Attorney David Tahan.
"We're seeing it more and more," he told Patch Friday. "Just because you've been prescribed something by a doctor, doesn't mean you can get behind the wheel. Usually, prescription drugs are designed to impair the senses."
The California Office of Traffic Safety concurs with Tahan.
"You can be as deadly behind the wheel with marijuana or prescription drugs as you can with over-the-limit alcohol," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "The bottom line is drugs and driving do not mix."
According to data the California Office of Traffic Safety derived from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 percent of all drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2010 tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs, a percentage that has been increasing since 2006, the OTS contends.
Tahan said of the drugged-driving cases involving doctor-prescribed meds that come before the Riverside County DA's office, Xanax, Hydrocodon, Seroquel, Ambien, and medical marijuana are the most commonly implicated drugs, but there are others.
Unlike alcohol, where there are clear established impairment levels under state law, prosecution evidence in drugged-driving cases relies heavily on witness and law enforcement testimony, along with lab results on blood, Tahan said.
To help ensure drugged drivers are prosecuted when involved in crashes, in January the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a $360,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety that provides for a specialized team to investigate and prosecute the felony DUI with injury and DUI-related vehicular homicide cases out of the DA's Southwest Riverside Office.
The DA's office has reported a swell in DUI fatality cases countywide. Click here to read about those cases.
Additionally, the California Highway Patrol is working together to provide officers statewide with specialized training to detect and apprehend drug-impaired drivers, according to a news release this week from the OTS.
"Drugged driving is a problem not widely recognized by the public, but increases in crashes, fatalities and injuries point out that we all must acknowledge this serious problem and work to curb it," the OTS news release stated.
In December, Lake Elsinore resident James Ryan, 66, died days after crashing his car head on into an off-duty Orange County sheriff's deputy on the Ortega Highway. According to CHP Officer Nathan Baer, Ryan was driving under the influence of doctor-prescribed medications. Click here to read that story.
"Doctor-prescribed medication can impair a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle," Baer said after the crash. "The CHP urges patients to consult with their doctors about the side effects and impairments that are caused by prescribed drugs."
| New Wrinkle in Pot Debate: Stoned Driving|
By KRISTEN WYATT
Angeline Chilton says she can't drive unless she smokes pot. The suburban Denver woman says she'd never get behind the wheel right after smoking, but she does use medical marijuana twice a day to ease tremors caused by multiple sclerosis that previously left her homebound.
"I don't drink and drive, and I don't smoke and drive," she said. "But my body is completely saturated with THC."
Her case underscores a problem that no one's sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive?
States that allow medical marijuana have grappled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue.
A Denver marijuana advocate says officials are scrambling for limits in part because more drivers acknowledge using the drug.
"The explosion of medical marijuana patients has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement's face, saying, 'You can't do anything to me, I'm legal,'" said Sean McAllister, a lawyer who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.
It's not that simple. Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states.
But it highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test.
Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving.
But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone's level of impairment - not that scientists haven't been working on it.
Dr. Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government research lab, says that soon there will be a saliva test to detect recent marijuana use.
But government officials say that doesn't address the question of impairment.
"I'll be dead - and so will lots of other people - from old age, before we know the impairment levels" for marijuana and other drugs, said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
Authorities recognize the need for a solution. Marijuana causes dizziness, slowed reaction time and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they're high.
Dr. Bob DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, a non-government institute that works to reduce drug abuse, says research proves "the terrible carnage out there on the roads caused by marijuana."
One recent review of several studies of pot smoking and car accidents suggested that driving after smoking marijuana might almost double the risk of being in a serious or fatal crash.
And a recent nationwide census of fatal traffic accidents showed that while deadly crashes have declined in recent years, the percentage of mortally wounded drivers who later tested positive for drugs rose 18 percent between 2005 and 2011.
DuPont, drug czar for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, wrote a paper last year on drugged driving for the Obama administration, which has made the issue a priority.
Physicians say that while many tests can show whether someone has recently used pot, it's more difficult to pinpoint impairment at any certain time.
Urine and blood tests are better at showing whether someone used the drug in the past - which is why employers and probation officers use them. But determining current impairment is far trickier.
"There's no sure answer to that question," said Dr. Guohua Li, a Columbia University researcher who reviewed marijuana use and motor vehicle crashes last year.
His survey linked pot use to crash risk, but pointed out wide research gaps. Scientists do not have conclusive data to link marijuana dosing to accident likelihood; whether it matters if the drug is smoked or eaten; or how pot interacts with other drugs.
The limited data has prompted a furious debate.
Proposed solutions include setting limits on the amount of the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, that drivers can have in their blood. But THC limits to determine impairment are not widely agreed upon.
Two states place the standard at 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Others have zero tolerance policies. And Colorado and Washington state are debating a threshold of 5 nanograms.
Such an attempt failed the Colorado Legislature last year, amid opposition from Republicans and Democrats. State officials then set up a task force to settle the question - and the panel couldn't agree.
This year, Colorado lawmakers are debating a similar measure, but its sponsors concede they don't know whether the "driving while high" bill will pass.
In Washington state, the ballot measure on marijuana legalization includes a 5 nanogram THC limit.
The measure's backers say polling indicates such a driving limit could be crucial to winning public support for legalization.
"Voters were very concerned about impaired driving," said Alison Holcomb, campaign director for Washington's legalization measure.
Holcomb also pointed to a failed marijuana legalization proposal in California two years ago that did not include a driving THC limit.
The White House, which has a goal of reducing drugged driving by 10 percent in the next three years, wants states to set a blood-level standard upon which to base convictions, but has not said what that limit should be.
Administration officials insist marijuana should remain illegal, and Kerlikowske called it a "bogus argument" to say any legal level of THC in a driver is safe.
But several factors can skew THC blood tests, including age, gender, weight and frequency of marijuana use. Also, THC can remain in the system weeks after a user sobers up, leading to the anxiety shared by many in the 16 medical marijuana states: They could be at risk for a positive test at any time, whether they had recently used the drug or not.
A Colorado state forensic toxicologist testified recently that "5 nanograms is more than fair" to determine intoxication. But, for now the blood test proposals remain politically fraught, with supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization hinging support on the issue.
Huestis, of the government-funded drug abuse institute, says an easy-to-use roadside saliva test that can determine recent marijuana use - as opposed to long-ago pot use - is in final testing stages and will be ready for police use soon.
Researchers envision a day when marijuana tests are as common in police cars as Breathalyzers.
Until then, lawmakers will consider measures such as Colorado's marijuana DUI proposal, which marijuana activists say imperils drivers who frequently use the drug such as Chilton, the multiple sclerosis patient.
She says that since she began using pot she has started driving again and for the first time in five years has landed a job.
Chilton worries Colorado's proposal jeopardizes her new found freedom.
| Start Seeing Motorcycles - BEFORE You Hit Them|
Posted by Lindsay Rakers
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 12:32 PM EST
Riding a motorcycle is one of the most dangerous means of highway transportation. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists account for 13% of all traffic fatalities. Riders are 25 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic accident and 5 times more likely to be injured. Yet, despite these staggering statistics, motorcycling remains an extremely popular mode of travel: in 2009, there were nearly 8 million registered motorcycles in the United States, a number that has steadily increased over the last decade. Of course, more motorcycles on the roadways leads to more Missouri and Illinois car and motorcycle accidents and crashes.
To avoid a motorcycle crash and motorcycle injury, motorcycle safety is absolutely something that bikers themselves must take seriously. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that everyone on the road has a role to play in preventing motorcycle accidents. In 2009, nearly half of all motorcycles that were involved in fatal crashes collided with another type of motor vehicle. The most common type of collision (40%) occurred when a vehicle turning left collided with a motorcycle that was going straight or passing another vehicle. The second most common type of collision (27%) occurred when both vehicles were going straight.
A major reason for these conditions is lack of motorcycle visibility. Whether it's a crowded multi-lane highway or a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, motorcycles have a way of seeming invisible to drivers of other vehicles. While there are measures that a biker should take to make themselves more visible and compensate for this characteristic, other drivers also need to make sure that they are looking out for motorcycles.
This is part of the reason that NHTSA has launched the "Share the Road" campaign, aimed at increasing driver awareness of motorcycles. As part of this campaign, NHTSA and local transportation agencies are reminding all drivers to follow some basic guidelines to keep motorcyclists safe:
- Road users are reminded to never drive, bike, or walk while distracted. Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
- A motorcycle has the same rights and privileges as any other vehicle on the roadway.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.
- Because motorcycles are small, they can be difficult for other road users to see them, or judge their speed and distance as they approach.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
- Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle - motorcycle signals may not be self-canceling and motorcyclists sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
- Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
- Allow more following distance -- three or four seconds - when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
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| Peers will manage Seattle's first youth traffic court|
Seattle's first youth traffic court, in which teens act as judge, jury and prosecutors, will convene late this month.
By Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Municipal Court Judge Karen Donohue knows there's nothing scarier for parents than handing over a set of car keys to a teenage driver.
She also knows that when adults talk - be it a parent, a teacher, or even a judge - what teens tend to hear is a lot of "white noise." And when young people make a mistake behind the wheel, it's often their parents who end up paying tickets and dealing with increased car-insurance rates.
Changing that dynamic is behind the launch of the city's first youth traffic court, which will begin hearing cases later this month involving Seattle drivers younger than 18. The court will be staffed by 22 Garfield High School students. The Garfield students will get community service credit and have been trained by law students from Seattle University to act as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, bailiffs, court clerks and jurors. Garfield was chosen because of its proximity to Seattle University.
But instead of handing out fines, the court will tailor sanctions based on the philosophy of restorative justice, according to Margaret Fisher, co-director of the Seattle youth traffic court along with Donohue and Seattle Municipal Court Magistrate Lisa Leone. A teen may be ordered to write an essay for the school paper, or perhaps do yard work for someone whose vehicle was damaged.
Teens who go before the youth court will also be required to serve on two future juries.
If they successfully complete their sentences, the teen defendants will see their tickets dismissed and keep their driving records clean - which will mean no insurance-rate increases for Mom and Dad.
The average fine for a moving violation is $124, while driving without proof of insurance - a common youth violation - carries a $550 fine. A standard speeding ticket costs $154, and speeding in a school zone, $189.
"In my experience, I've seen kids for running stop signs and running traffic lights. But I think the No. 1 [offense] is speeding and speeding through school zones," said Donohue.
"Having had teen drivers in my family and seeing kids who come through court, I think this is a great opportunity" for teens to truly understand the impact their bad driving can have on the community, she said.
Garfield High freshman Clare Fuget, who turns 16 in September, acknowledged that she and her peers rarely think of consequences until after the fact.
"We're kind of heat-of-the-moment, that-looks-like-fun" people, she said. While young people may be impulsive and reckless at times, she said it's important their voices are heard and perspectives taken into account.
"A lot of times adults make our decisions or parents make our decisions, and we're not OK with that. We need to speak for ourselves," she said. "... We can relate to each other more."
On Monday, Fuget will play the role of prosecutor in a scripted hearing before city officials, legal professionals and police representatives. While the program's kickoff will be a dry run based on a fictional scenario, Fuget and her fellow youth-court participants will begin hearing real cases March 26. After that, the court will convene once a month and hear up to five cases per session.
"Basically, we're trying to nip poor driving habits and behavior in the bud," said Forrest Smith, one of six Seattle University law students who are mentoring the youth-court participants.
To qualify, drivers must be under 18 and have been ticketed in Seattle. They must admit to committing the traffic infractions for which they were stopped and agree to have their cases heard by the youth court.
Teens involved in injury accidents or under investigation for more serious crimes such as vehicular homicide are not eligible, nor are young drivers who have previously gone before the youth court.
Fisher wrote the American Bar Association's curriculum for youth courts in 2000 and has authored reports on youth courts for the U.S. Department of Justice. A distinguished practitioner in residence at Seattle University's law school, Fisher is convinced youth courts "are the best way for young people to learn about fairness and justice."
"It's a very maturing process," Fisher said of teens who have their cases adjudicated by a group of peers.
There are more than 1,000 youth courts (including five or six in Washington) across the country, up from 78 in 1994, according to the National Association of Youth Courts. Some youth courts handle criminal diversions, while others focus on teen truancy, said Fisher.
"Kids are so inventive and creative" in handing down sentences, Fisher said.
Ordering a teen to write an apology letter, perform community service, or even go on a ride-along with police can have a bigger impact on a young person's driving habits "than watching all the gory movies in the world," she said, referring to the kinds of films typically shown in driver's ed classes.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654
|Good News: Deadly Car Wrecks Down Slightly In 2011 Based On New Estimates|
Posted by M. Brandon Smith
Data released this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) brings some good news about the safety of our highways. Estimates of traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2011 shows a 1.6% decrease in the number of fatalities, as compared to the same time period in 2010. In raw numbers, an estimated 24,050 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first nine months of 2011, compared to 24,437 in 2010. The actual fatality data for the full year of 2011 will only become available later this year.
This year's estimates are particularly good news because the number of fatalities in 2011 is projected to be the lowest since NHTSA began data collection back in 1975. In fact, traffic accident fatalities have been on a steady march downward for the last seven years since 2005, when they reached a peak of 43,510.
The NHTSA data doesn't include a discussion of why fatalities might be on the decrease in recent years. It does mention that in 2011, the number of vehicle miles traveled was about 1.3% lower than the same period in 2010. But given the improvements in traffic fatalities since 2005, there are surely a lot of factors at play here, such as improved safety features in our vehicles and improved safety in highway engineering. Even improvements in medical technology and emergency response time impact the number of people who die in traffic fatalities.
Whatever the reason-or reasons-for the improved numbers, the steadily decreasing number of traffic fatalities is good news that we are moving in the right direction.
|Cocaine Positives Spike 33% After New Government Rule for Safety-Sensitive Workers|
Amphetamines Positives Jump Nearly 26% After New Rule, Continuing Upward Trend,
Shows Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™
MADISON, NJ - Safety-sensitive workers have been subject to more stringent government drug testing rules over the past year, and the crackdown may be paying off, according to annual Drug Testing Index™ data released today by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world's leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services. New data reveal a 33% jump in cocaine positives in the safety-sensitive workforce, largely driven by new, lower cutoff rules implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Amphetamines positives among this group also rose by nearly 26%, continuing an existing upward trend, but also likely boosted by better detection related to the new, lower, Federally-mandated cutoffs, Quest Diagnostics experts say. The findings are based on 1.6 million federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics between January and December 2011.
"We all know how devastating a single accident can be when an impaired driver gets behind the wheel," said Dr. Barry Sample, Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. "The risk to public safety can heighten dramatically when that person is flying the plane we're boarding, operating the train or bus we take to work, taking our children to school, or transporting the products we buy across the country."
"The individuals who hold these jobs are in a category called 'safety-sensitive' workers, and they carry a tremendous responsibility each time they perform their duties. Our data suggest that new Federal requirements may be helping employers ensure that the workers they put behind the wheel are those ready to perform their duties safely."
On October 1, 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) harmonized with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) decision to institute lower initial and confirmation cutoff levels for amphetamines and cocaine, and added other substances, such as heroin and ecstasy, to the required drug testing panel. Workers subject to these new requirements include private-sector workers for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the DOT as well as those Federal employees in testing-designated positions.
Dr. Donna Smith, a principal architect of the regulations for the DOT's drug and alcohol testing programs during her DOT tenure from 1989-1994 commented on the findings, "Amphetamines, including prescribed medications that also carry a reputation for diversion for illicit use, and cocaine, well known as an illegal drug of abuse, are powerful stimulants. Identifying their use is an important safety issue in the workforce subjected to Federally mandated testing. The Quest Diagnostics data show increased detection of cocaine use not identified by the previous cut-off levels, and increased identification of the use of amphetamines."
After the implementation of the new cutoff requirements, Federally mandated safety sensitive workers tested positive for cocaine at the highest level (0.32%) since 2008 and methamphetamine positivity was at the highest level (0.14%) since prior to 2007. This increase suggests that the new requirements may have played a role in identifying more than 1,300 additional cocaine positives and more than 1,400 additional amphetamines positives in the 1.6 million Federally mandated safety sensitive tests performed by Quest Diagnostics in 2011, and may shed light on potential use among the estimated 12 million transportation workers in the U.S. subject to the new rule.[http://www.dot.gov/odapc/employee.html1]
The increase in amphetamines positives - which continues an upward trend in recent years - likely reflects both an increase in the use of prescribed amphetamine drugs (such as those used in medical treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD) and more drug positives identified owing to the lower cutoff in drug testing. Identifying amphetamine use in safety-sensitive positions - whether prescribed or illicit - is important for ensuring worker and public safety.
Cocaine and amphetamines (amphetamine and methamphetamine) are stimulants, typically used to increase alertness and relieve fatigue. Stimulants are also used for euphoric effects or may be used to counteract the "down" feeling of tranquilizers or alcohol. Possible side effects of stimulants include increased heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils and decreased appetite. High doses may cause irregular heartbeat, loss of coordination or collapse. Indications of possible misuse may include excessive activity, talkativeness, irritability or nervousness. Amphetamines are derived from a chemical compound that is structurally a sympathomimetic amine, considered a psychostimulant, and approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. Amphetamines act primarily by triggering the release of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin from presynaptic neurons. Because of their potential for abuse, they are scheduled by the FDA in the most restrictive classification for a drug with medical usefulness.[ http://dictionary.webmd.com/terms/amphetamine
|U.S. General Workforce Key Findings|
In the general U.S. workforce, amphetamines positives are up 16.7% from 2010 (0.66% vs. 0.77%) and up 75% since 2007. Cocaine positivity is up 8% from 2010 (0.25% vs. 0.27%) in the general workforce, also partially driven by some private sector employers adopting the new Federal standard.
Additional findings from the Drug Testing Index data collected between January-December 2011 include:
For more information on the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index and the 2011 tables, visit http://www.questdiagnostics.com/employersolutions/drug_testing_index_es.html
- Positivity rates for oxycodone from more than 500,000 tests in the general U.S. workforce are 10% higher than in 2010 (1.0% vs. 1.1%) and up 25% since 2007.
- Positivity for opiates in the general workforce is up nearly 7.7% from 2010 (0.39% vs. 0.42%) and up 20% since 2007.
- Positivity for propoxyphene in the general workforce was down 84.7% from 2010 (0.38% vs. 0.06%). Propoxyphene was pulled off the market in November 2010 because the drug was found to put patients at risk for potentially serious or even fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.
|Speeding enforcement falls through cracks with budget cuts|
By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
Seven years ago, highway safety leaders from around the USA gathered to adapt a strategy for attacking speeding - a problem that contributes to about one-third of all traffic deaths.
Since then, seven states have actually increased speed limits while two have increased speeding fines. In 2010, 10,530 people died in speed-related crashes.
Over the past decade, speeding has been the one area of road safety where advocates have had little success: Fatalities related to non-use of seat belts dropped 23% since 2000 and drunken-driving deaths 3%; speed-related deaths rose 7%.
Developments in speeding enforcement since 2007:
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association
- Seven states increased speed limits, some to as high as 85 mph on some roads: Kan., Ky., Maine, Ohio, Pa., Texas, Va.
- Two states increased fines for speeders: Connecticut for all speeders, Wyoming for drivers of commercial vehicles
- Three states created a new "super" or "excessive" speeder classification with higher fines: Ga., Hawaii, Pa.
- One state enacted an aggressive driver law: Ind.
There is limited use of automated speed enforcement: 14 states allow it, and two - Tennessee and Utah - allow it in all areas of the state, GHSA says.
With limited funds for road safety promotion and education, the issue simply falls through the cracks, Harsha says. "There's pressure to address emerging issues like distracted driving. The other part of the equation is there's fewer law enforcement personnel to do the job."
Harsha says the widespread disregard for speed limits is "more of a cultural thing" that stems largely from the 1995 congressional repeal of the national 55 mph speed limit. "When that was repealed, people's attitudes did significantly change. They didn't take the speed limit seriously. They thought they were just guidelines. The posted speed limits are actually laws, but people don't see it that way."
The National Motorists Association, a Waunakee, Wis.-based group that was initially formed to seek repeal of the 55-mph national speed limit, sees it differently.
"The bottom line is that the roads have never been safer," says NMA communications director John Bowman. "Traffic fatality rates have been steadily dropping since 1995. That, incidentally, was the year they repealed the national speed limit. They've been steadily decreasing, and that's with higher speed."
Bowman says that "rather than a sole focus on increased enforcement," NMA favors a national effort to set speed limits based on sound traffic engineering principles and more public education on safe driving practices, especially lane courtesy, in which slower traffic keeps right.
Harsha in part agrees. "There is a question of: are speed limits set appropriately? That's something state engineers and local public works directors and county engineers need to take a look at." In some instances, speed limits are set too low, she says.
GHSA recommends states address speeding with aggressive driving crackdowns. Other recommendations: targeted enforcement in school and work zones and a national, high-visibility enforcement and education campaign.