MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- (Marketwire) -- 07/17/11 -- Studies show that the prevalence of drug use among drivers can rival that of alcohol use and that the rise in driving after drug use is becoming a growing global issue. Yet, current evidence, research and policy initiatives on drugs and driving tend to lag significantly behind the information available for alcohol and driving.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) - in partnership with the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - is hosting the first International Symposium on Drugs and Driving in Montreal, Canada.
Over the course of two days (July 17-18), convening practitioners and experts are engaging in this global initiative in an effort to improve international collaboration in order to strengthen policy, legislation, health and safety, enforcement and prevention efforts on drugs and driving.
The purpose of the symposium is to build on the 2011 Resolution 54/2 adopted by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that recognizes the importance of a coordinated approach to addressing the health and public safety consequences of drugged driving, through evidence-based research.
"It is a call to action to raise public awareness of this growing issue and begin to focus internationally on equipping policymakers through dialogue and an exchange of research with the best practices in drugged driving policy that fosters legal, social and cultural change around drugged driving," said Michel Perron, Chief Executive Officer, CCSA.
In Canada, CCSA recently released two research studies: Alcohol and Drug Use Among Drivers: British Columbia Roadside Survey 2010 and A Comparison of Drug and Alcohol-involved Motor Vehicle Driver Fatalities. Results revealed that driving after drug use is as prevalent as driving after alcohol use - and that drugs may be a contributing factor to one-third of collisions and fatal road crashes in the areas studied.
In the United States, as stated in the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy and the recently released 2011 update, the national goal is to reduce drugged driving by 2015 by 10 per cent. ONDCP is aiming to make drugged driving a national priority that is on par with prevention efforts around drunk driving.
In Europe, the complex issue of drugged driving has been the subject of the major multi-country 'DRUID' project (Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medicines - www.druid-project.eu), which will be reporting its results later this year. The EUR 24 million project aims to provide a solid basis for informing the policy debate on driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and medicines in Europe. Experts involved in the project will attend the symposium and discuss its preliminary findings. Over 35 000 people die annually on Europe's roads, a number the EU is committed to halving by 2020.
Piotr JABLONSKI, representing the current Polish Presidency of the European Union said, "It is important that we have soundly conceived legislation and enforcement policies, which need to be grounded in strong research and be proportional to the problems we face. However, our efforts are unlikely to be effective unless we combine them with measures to change public attitudes and behaviour. Education and prevention are therefore critically important here and, in many respects, are among our greatest challenges."
The 2011 International Symposium on Drugs and Driving features expert panelists from a broad spectrum, including remarks from Candice Hoeppner, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, Sandeep Chawla, Director, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, R. Gil Kerlikowske Director, White House Office of National Drug Control, and Policy, Piotr JABLONSKI, representing the current Polish Presidency of the European Union.
The symposium focuses on six themes, with a complete agenda accessible on the CCSA website.
Panel 1: Nature and Magnitude of the Drugs and Driving Problem
Panel 2: Legislative/Policy Options
Panel 3: Detection, Deterrence and Enforcement of Drug Impaired Driving
Panel 4: Prevention
Panel 5: Towards a Comprehensive Framework for Dealing with Drugs and Driving
Panel 6: Opportunities for further International Engagement & Collaboration
"In an effort to close the research gap on drugs and driving, the symposium intends to lay the necessary groundwork for a unified and targeted approach that will ultimately guide the development of evidence informed prevention programs and continue international dialogue with a partner country in 2012," said Michel Perron, CEO, CCSA.
With a legislated mandate to reduce alcohol- and other drug-related harms, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) provides leadership on national priorities, fosters knowledge translation within the field and creates sustainable partnerships that maximize collective efforts. CCSA receives funding support from Health Canada.
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