GLEN BURNIE, Md. –The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, also known as Responsbility.org, have again awarded Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office with a grant to support the state’s focus to prevent motor vehicle crashes from drug-impaired driving. Maryland is one of four states awarded a Diving Under the Influence of Drugs and High-Risk Impaired Driving grant. The nearly $40,000 grant will help fund advanced training and skill development for Maryland law enforcement agencies to detect drivers under the influence of drugs.
“We are seeing an increase of drug-impaired driving and we are honored to continue working with GHSA and Responsibility.org to help combat this issue in Maryland,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Our goal is zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries. Impaired driving accounts for nearly one-third of crashes every year, so there is progress to be made. This grant will help us move in the right direction.”
Between 2015 and 2019, an average of 29 people were killed and more than 800 injured annually in Maryland crashes involving a driver impaired by drugs – including illicit drugs and medications. From 2016 through 2020, an average of 1,300 drug-impaired driving arrests were made by law enforcement annually. Compared to the period of 2011 to 2015, drug arrests increased 36% in Maryland.
“Drug-impaired driving is an issue affecting lives in Maryland and across the nation every year,” MDOT Secretary Greg Slater said. “The grant from GHSA and Responsibility.org will assist us with education and awareness, and help fund the specialized training our law enforcement partners need to recognize driver impairment and curb this dangerous behavior.”
Through the grant, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division Toxicology Unit will train officers on instruments and software used daily in the Toxicology Unit. The grant will fund certification of 16 to 20 officers through a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course to help them better detect and remove drug impaired drivers from state roadways. The grant will also support several DRE Instructors to monitor evaluations during the course.
Officers who complete the course will be trained to determine if a subject is impaired and if the impairment is the result of an injury, illness or drugs. If the impairment is deemed to be drug-related, trained officers also would be able to determine what category of drug or drugs is the likely cause. The course is approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The grant also will fund three Cannabis Intoxication Impaired Driving Labs, which provide experience to officers in a controlled setting to learn about the signs and symptoms of cannabis impairment. Legalization of medical cannabis in Maryland and recreational use of cannabis in neighboring Virginia makes it necessary to train officers on how to detect cannabis impaired driving. Through the training, the labs partner with certified medical cannabis patients on a voluntary basis. The NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, as well as additional Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement tests are completed on the volunteers.
“Americans spent the past year trying to stay safe, only to return to the road and face another deadly threat – drunk and drug-impaired drivers,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “As traffic comes roaring back this summer, these grants will help advance proven and innovative ways to address some of the deadliest drivers and improve roadway safety.”
Last year GHSA and Responsbility.org awarded a similar grant of nearly $45,000. Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.