Rice, Balderson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Drug-Impaired Driving
Legislation would establish an annual $5 million federal grant program for states to educate the public on the dangers of drug-impaired driving
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04) and Troy Balderson (OH-12) introduced the bipartisan Drug-Impaired Driving Education Act of 2020, which would establish an annual $5 million federal grant program for states to educate the public on the dangers of drug-impaired driving. The latest available data from 2018 indicates that impaired driving was a factor in approximately 11,000 traffic deaths nationwide, all of which were preventable.
Rice has been a leader on highway safety issues since her tenure as District Attorney of Nassau County, NY, during which she fought to crack down on drunk driving. In 2019, Rice introduced three bills aimed at combating impaired and distracted driving.
“Despite common misconceptions, drug-impaired driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, and that’s why this bill to expand public education and awareness is so important,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “I’ve been working on these issues for my entire career, and I have seen the immense pain and tragedy that they can cause far too many times. I thank Rep. Balderson and the many advocacy groups who are supporting this legislation. We must keep working together until we can end impaired and distracted driving once and for all.”
“When someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, entire communities are put at risk,” said Congressman Troy Balderson. “Sadly, this is a fact we know all too well in the state of Ohio, where the opioid epidemic runs rampant. This legislation takes critical steps to educate our communities about the risks associated with drug-driving impaired, including those driving under the influence of opioids and marijuana.”
The Drug-Impaired Driving Education Act has been endorsed by Responsibility.org, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), National Safety Council (NSC), National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA).
“We commend Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) for introducing their bipartisan legislation, the Drug Impaired Driving Education Act of 2020, which will fund much-needed state education efforts on the dangers of drugged driving,” said Darrin T. Grondel, Vice President of Traffic Safety and Government Relations for Responsibility.org. “In Washington State, 44% of drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2008-2016 tested positive for two or more substances with alcohol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most common combination. This legislation is a giant step forward in helping the public to understand the dangers drug-impaired driving and multi-substance impaired driving pose on our roadways.”
“Too many Americans do not realize that driving under the influence of cannabis or prescription medication impairs their ability to operate a vehicle safely, so efforts to bolster information, education and enforcement is something we can all celebrate, ” said Michelle Korsmo, President and CEO, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. “WSWA remains steadfast in fighting impaired driving in all forms and commends Reps. Rice and Balderson for their leadership and commitment to the public on the health and safety of all Americans.”
“Impairment is a persistent roadway safety issue, and we know drug-impaired driving is a growing concern,” said Lorraine M. Martin, President and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We need public awareness and outrage to move the needle to save lives, and this bill provides initial funding to this end. We appreciate Congresswoman Rice’s and Congressman Balderson's ongoing leadership and relentless commitment to this important issue.”
“Keeping our communities safe and reducing fatalities on our Nation’s roads remains a top priority for prosecutors throughout the country,” said Nancy Parr, NDAA President & Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. “NDAA supports and endorses the Drug-Impaired Driving Education Act of 2020 which will provide vital federal funding to State and local governments, nonprofits, and law enforcement agencies to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving and protect our citizens across the nation.”
"With the majority of US states now regulating marijuana sales for either medical purposes or for adult use, it is important that traffic safety laws and practices comport with this new reality,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director. “Both lawmakers and the general public can benefit from evidence-based messaging and strategies reinforcing and strengthening responsible behavior.”
Congress has previously funded efforts to train authorities to better detect and deter drug-impaired driving, but there remains a need for public education and awareness of this growing problem. The new federal grant program established by the Drug-Impaired Driving Education Act would specifically provide funding to states to address this critical need.
The full text of the legislation can be found here.