Drunk driving isn’t a new issue. We’ve all heard the stories and the warnings. It’s a message that bears repeating because it keeps happening, but it’s not the only danger lurking on our nation’s roadways.

Less known, but equally important is something – perhaps not new, but something that is getting more and more attention… drugged driving.

ODOT is now posting the number of drugged driving crashes on highway signs. At first glance, you may take for granted that it’s a drunk driving statistic. On second look however, you will see that (as of Nov. 15) there have been 3,574 drugged driving crashes in Ohio in 2016. That’s an increase of 25 percent since 2012, and accounts for about 33 percent of all impaired driving crashes.

This is a scary reality. Thanks to news media and recent awareness efforts, we’ve all seen pictures of people overdosing in their cars, particularly the photo of the Ohio couple with their 4-year-old grandson in the back seat.

Before passing out, the driver was driving erratically. He’d stopped behind a school bus, and when it was time to accelerate, he did so for a short while before coming to a stop in the middle of the road on a steep hill. An officer in the vicinity secured the car, putting it in park and shutting the engine off.

The driver’s head was bobbing back and forth. His speech was almost unintelligible. The driver told the police officer (was trying to tell him) that he was transporting his passenger to the hospital when he lost consciousness. Chances are, if the officer hadn’t stopped the vehicle and turned the car’s engine off, there would have been another number added to the drugged driving crash total.

The National Transportation Highway Safety Administration says OVI arrests (operating a vehicle under the influence), which include drugged driving, are at their highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend.

According the Ohio State Highway Patrol, nine people were killed in 2015, and seven people were killed during the five-day period beginning Wednesday before Thanksgiving and ending Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The NTSB reports — on average — 36 people are killed every day in drunk driving crashes across the country. During the three days leading up to Christmas, that

number climbs to 45, and spikes again to 54 deaths per day during the New Year’s holiday.

Driving a vehicle while impaired (whether by alcohol or drugs) puts the driver, passengers, roadside workers, and others who share the road at risk.

Gov. John R. Kasich and First Lady Karen W. Kasich launched Start Talking! in 2014 to give parents, guardians, educators, and community leaders the tools to start conversations with Ohio’s youth about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives. The Start Talking website can be found at and provides suggestions on how to start talking about drugs with youth.

Research shows youth are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs when parents and adults talk with them about substance use and abuse. Prescription and over-the-counter medications (ex. Adderall, Vicodin, OxyContin) account for a majority of the top drugs used by 12th graders in the past year. The Parents360 Rx community education program found on the Start Talking website increases an adult’s knowledge of substance use and confidence in their ability to speak with youth about the subject.

“Lives are forever changed when people make the decision to drive after taking drugs,” said Colonel Paul Pride, Patrol Superintendent. The same can be said for drivers who are impaired by alcohol.

If you see drug activity or impaired driving, please report it immediately to the Patrol by calling #677.

Be safe. Be smart. Save lives. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drug and drive.

Carol O’Brien

County Prosecutor

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