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Driving without drugs could prevent 900 deaths a year: Goal: Zero


Young drivers know the theory well: when asked directly, they reject risky behavior, such as drinking alcohol and using drugs before driving. However, they do not practice what they preach.

8.1 percent admit to having driven under the influence of drugs at least once in the past six months and 2.1 percent do so frequently. It is also alarming to learn that more than 30 percent of passengers have gotten into a vehicle with a driver who had smoked a joint, done cocaine or taken pills, among other substances.

These data are taken from the report "Driving and Drugs. Underlying factors of risky behavior" which was recently presented in Madrid by Fundación MAPFRE and the Foundation Against Drug Addiction (FAD). The study gives a detailed and quantifiable analysis of what young people (16 to 30 years old) think and perceive about driving risks.

The study is part of the strategy "Goal: zero traffic accidents" an objective that, according to Jesús Monclús, Manager of the Accident Prevention and Road Safety Area of Fundación MAPFRE, "could be met in the medium term; we estimate by 2030 in urban areas and by 2050 on highways." You can watch this video about "Goal: Zero Victims:"

The General Manager of the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT), María Seguí, provides a thought-provoking fact: "If, starting today, no one drove under the influence of drugs, in a year we would submit a report with 900 fewer deaths."

Even though they know the theory, at the moment of truth, some young people downplay alcohol as a high risk factor (13.6 percent) and their peers think it is normal to drink or do drugs when they have to drive (17.5 percent).

One cause of the problem can be found in the attitude of very significant minorities who say they "know" how much they can drink or smoke, they seem sure of their limits, they know how to counteract the effects of these kinds of substances and that is why they do not think they have to stop drinking completely.

The survey makes it clear that this is not an issue of information, but rather due to the fact that young people accept these risks and even see it as "normal." 42.1 percent of those who drink alcohol on a daily basis and 14.9 percent of those who do so frequently believe that the risk of having an accident increases "depending on the amount" or "barely increases."

42.9 percent of those who use cannabis frequently and 26.7 percent of those who do so daily have the same opinion.

Data from the National Institute of Toxicology reminds us that 39 percent of drivers killed in 2014 tested positive for illegal drugs. The penalty of taking away points for using drugs reached 25,000 last year, of which at least half corresponds to individuals between 16 and 30 years of age. "The average age for being killed in a traffic accident is 47 years old, the same age as for victims of drug use. Social rejection of this behavior should apply to everyone, not just young people," María Seguí asserts.

The DGT already announced that it will increase drug controls by 38 percent, from the initial 90,000 to 120,000, which are expected to be conducted throughout 2016.

It should be clear that drug use and driving do not mix. "A driver who is high does not think clearly and there is no going back. That is why it is so important that we all do our part to prevent anyone who has taken drugs from getting behind the wheel," Jesús Monclús of Fundación MAPFRE concluded. As a passenger, do not get into a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol or taking illegal substances.

As part of "Goal: Zero drugs at the wheel," throughout 2016, Fundación MAPFRE will conduct a special campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs, by distributing educational videos and material. It will also collaborate with public and private agencies and perform on-site activities through simulators, driving schools and conducting talks and activities on the street.

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