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August 2022

New Report Outlines Strategies to Address Cannabis-Impaired Driving

Public perception about cannabis use and safe driving is not the same as how drunk driving is perceived, a new report from the Governors Highway Association (GHSA) found.

The report by GHSA, and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving provides guidance on how to best convey messages about the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving, including the types of messages that work and don't work.  

“As legal cannabis use becomes more widespread in the U.S., motorists need to know the dangers of driving under the influence,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “But that message won’t be heard if it’s outdated, irrelevant or insulting to cannabis consumers."

The report provides lessons learned from education outreach done in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize cannabis, as well as more recent efforts in Connecticut and Wyoming.

The report offers recommendations for effective messaging such as working with cannabis industry groups on public education campaigns, partnering with dispensaries to integrate cannabis-impaired driving material to educate consumers about safe marijuana use, leverage people and companies that users trust to make factual safe driving messages, and use language that is consistent with cannabis consumers that is not outdated or focuses on stereotypes.

“Some of the earliest errors in communicating the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving occurred when campaigns used unflattering stereotypes of cannabis users,” the report said.

The report also recommends allocating a portion of cannabis tax revenue for impaired-driving education programs so public education funds increase as sales increase.

The report comes as more people use cannabis and state legalization spreads. Just 11 years ago, no states had legalized recreational cannabis. Since then, 18 states have made cannabis legal, the report said. In 2019, 18% of people age 12 and older in the U.S. reported using cannabis in the past year, up from 11% in 2002.

While 95% of people say driving drunk is very or extremely dangerous, only 69% believe it is dangerous to drive within an hour of consuming cannabis, according to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey published last year. However, data from trauma centers showed cannabis was slightly more prevalent than alcohol in drivers killed in crashes during the pandemic. More drivers also tested positive for more than one substance compared to before the pandemic, the report said.

"Ongoing public education on the consequences of cannabis-impaired driving is critically important given the level of misinformation surrounding the impact of cannabis use on driving, as well as the rising rate of cannabis involvement in fatal crashes," the report said.

AAA Study: Many Drivers Hit the Road on Potentially Impairing Medications

Almost half of drivers surveyed used one or multiple potentially impairing medications in the past 30 days, new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.

The study focused on the recent use by drivers of commonly used potentially driver impairing, or PDI, medications. These include prescriptions and over-the-counter medications such as cough medicines, antidepressants, stimulants, prescription pain medicines, sleep aids and allergy medications. Allergy and cough medicines, many of which do not require a prescription, were used the most.

Up to half of drivers who were prescribed a PDI medication did not report receiving a warning from their medical provider or pharmacist about the possible impacts on driving, the study said. Those who did receive a warning were 18% less likely to drive after use.

“Our research finds that many drivers are taking one or more potentially impairing medications before getting behind the wheel,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Executive Director Dr. David Yang said in a news release. “It is important for medical professionals to offer clear consultation to their patients of the possible risks and ensure they understand them.”

Many PDI medications include side effects that can make driving after use dangerous, such as dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision and attention problems, the study said. 

AAA recommends that anyone taking PDI medications should discuss with their doctor or pharmacist on how to manage use that does not impact driving, including adjusting doses so that meds are taken when you don't need to drive, or using other treatments that do not cause driver impairment. AAA also recommends asking your doctor or pharmacist how certain medications may impact your ability to drive safely.

Study: Cannabis Legalization

Increased Number of Crashes

The rate of crashes and traffic deaths increased in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found.

Published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers looked at five states that legalized recreational marijuana – California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – and compared them with states where recreational marijuana is not legal (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming).

The rate of people injured in car crashes jumped nearly 7% in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The crash rate went down slightly after retail sales began (5.8%), but the rate of fatal crashes increased about 2% before and after retail sales started, the study said. 

"It's becoming more and more clear that the legalization of marijuana doesn't come without cost," IIHS lead researcher Charles Farmer told HealthDay News. "But marijuana legalization is still a novelty, and there's hope that these early trends can be turned around," he added.

California experienced the smallest increase in the injury crash rate (5.7%), and second-lowest decrease in the fatal crash rate (7.6%), the study noted. Overall, the rate of injury car crashes increased by nearly 6%, while fatal crashes went up 4%. States that had not legalized recreational marijuana did not see any increases in injury and fatal crashes, researchers said. 

The findings are similar to previous studies, and prior research found marijuana use affects reaction time, attention, and staying in a lane. 

Researchers noted there are limitations, and that there may be other factors that led to higher crash rates. 

"Even if legalization leads to a higher prevalence of driving after marijuana use, the increased crash rates may be attributable to other unobserved factors," researchers said. "Marijuana users may be riskier drivers even when not impaired."

Alex Otte, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), told HealthDay News that perceptions about the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving could shift even more when there are better quantifiable ways to show the effects like there are for alcohol.

"What's needed is to change the culture so people understand that it's not safe to drive after using pot," Otte said. "...I think people just aren't aware, as much as they are with alcohol, that there is such a risk associated with driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs."

Study: Racial Disparities in Pedestrian Fatality Rates Across the U.S.

Streets throughout the country are more dangerous for pedestrians, particularly Black, Hispanic and individuals in low-income communities, a new report by Smart Growth America found.

Titled "Dangerous by Design," the annual pedestrian fatality report from Smart Growth America and National Complete Streets Coalition found that the fatality rate in the lowest-income neighborhoods were nearly twice that of middle-income neighborhoods, and more than three times that of higher-income areas. Despite accounting for only 17% of the population, more than 30% of pedestrian deaths occur in the lowest-income neighborhoods, the report said.

“The lower the income of the census tract, the more likely a person is to be struck and killed while walking there,” the report said. “Poor walking infrastructure and a lack of safety features put people walking in low-income neighborhoods at higher risk, and many lower-income households do not have access to a vehicle and must rely on walking or public transportation to get around.”

The study used data from 2016 to 2020 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), Streetlight Data and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report found that more than 6,500 people were struck and killed while walking, or 18 people a day, a 4.5% increase from 2019.

Among the top 20 metro areas with the highest fatality rates, four are in California – Bakersfield (No. 7), Stockton (No. 9), Fresno (No. 10) and Riverside (No. 14). All of these metro areas have become more deadly, according. to the report.

The report comes after the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimated 7,845 pedestrians were struck and killed by vehicles in 2021, the largest number in four decades. 

And even though fewer people drove in 2020 due to the pandemic, there was a 4.5% increase in pedestrian deaths compared to 2019, the report found.

"This epidemic continues growing worse because our nation’s streets are dangerous by design, designed primarily to move cars quickly at the expense of keeping everyone safe," Smart Growth America said.

"Although everyone is affected by dangerous street design in some way, this burden is not shared equally. Despite other changes, the pandemic perpetuated existing disparities in who is being killed at the highest rates."

Study: SUVs, Light Trucks Pose Significant Risk to Pedestrian Crashes Involving Children

Children are eight times more likely to die when struck by an SUV compared to those hit by drivers in passenger cars, a University of Illinois at Springfield study found.

Published in the Journal of Safety Research, researchers looked at more than 23,000 crash and hospital records in Illinois from 2016 to 2018 to evaluate the relationship between the type of vehicle that hit pedestrians, the victim's age, and the severity of injury or death. Of those, 63% of cases involved a pedestrian.

Passenger cars were involved in 62% of pedestrians and cyclists crashes where children were hit, but caused about 19% of fatalities in those cases. However, SUV drivers were involved in just 16.9% of crashes, yet caused 40% of pedestrian deaths involving children.

Though pickup trucks were involved in hitting pedestrians in less than 6% of crashes, they were involved in 12.6% of pedestrian fatality crashes overall. SUVs were also overrepresented in striking and killing pedestrians compared to all crashes, involved in less than 15% of crashes studied by researchers, but involved in 25.4% of deadly crashes.

The study's findings follow similar trends, including the Governors Highway Safety Association pedestrian fatality report, which showed that deaths involving SUVs rose 76% between 2011 and 2020, while deaths from passenger cars grew 36%.

"Larger vehicles are involved in pedestrian and pedalcyclist crashes with more severe injuries that result in higher hospital charges," the study said.

"The most vulnerable among us seem to bear the greatest burden," the study said.

NHTSA Holds "Speeding Wrecks Lives" Campaign Kickoff Event in Los Angeles

From left to right: Street Racing Kills Executive Director Lili Trujillo Puckett, Minnesota Highway Patrol Colonel Matthew C. Langer, Office of Traffic Safety Director Barbara Rooney, California Highway Patrol Commissioner Amanda Ray, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff.

CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray (left) with OTS Director Barbara Rooney during the "Speeding Wrecks Lives" media kickoff event in Los Angeles July 19. The anti-speeding campaign from NHTSA runs until Aug. 14.

Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Director Barbara Rooney joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in her role as chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) to launch a new national campaign aimed at reducing the rising number of deaths caused by speeding.

Called "Speeding Wrecks Lives," the campaign will run on television, radio and digitally until Aug. 14. 

During the campaign kickoff July 19 in downtown Los Angeles, NHTSA Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff emphasized the significant dangers speeding poses, contributing to 29% of all deadly crashes in the U.S.

“Speed-related deaths aren’t inevitable,” Dr. Cliff said. “They’re preventable, and everyone has a role in addressing this crisis.”

The campaign complements the OTS and Caltrans new statewide "Slow the Fast Down" campaign that encourages drivers to follow the speed limit and recognize the dangers of speeding in an effort to reverse the deadly trend.

According to NHTSA, 11,258 people died in speed-related crashes in 2020, up 17% from 2019. In 2021, the trend continued with nearly 12,000 people killed in speed-related crashes.

"Despite the death and destruction that come with speeding, nearly all of us do it," OTS Director and GHSA Chair Rooney said. "Far too many drivers consider the speed limit a suggestion or, even worse, a minimum...It’s time to change the social norm so that speeding is just as unacceptable as driving drunk or not wearing a seat belt."

To view the NHTSA "Speeding Wrecks Lives" PSA, visit the NHTSA YouTube page. To view the OTS and Caltrans “Slow the Fast Down” PSAs, visit the OTS YouTube page.

Ending speeding-related deaths is a priority at the state and federal level. In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the National Roadway Safety Strategy, which includes a focus on safer speeds. The plan aims to utilize a combination of road design and other infrastructure improvements, education and equitable traffic enforcement.

OTS, Caltrans Select Winner of Distracted Driving Video Contest

The winner of the "Get Off Your Apps" video contest is getting a big reward for their creativity in helping spread the message of the dangers of distracted driving. Roger Lua of Mendota, Calif., will receive two tickets to the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, $2,500 for trip expenses and a role in a new traffic safety public service announcement being filmed next month. Prizes are provided courtesy of iHeartMedia. To view the winning video, visit the OTS YouTube page.

The "Get Off your Apps" video contest encouraged Californians to create a video showing the dangers of distracted driving, and what they do to not drive distracted. Videos were judged based on creative visuals, camera presence, messaging, safety, and storytelling.


“The contest highlights that staying off the phone while driving requires personal responsibility,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “Not driving distracted and putting the phone away while behind the wheel is a behavior change every Californian must commit to.”


In 2020, more than 3,000 people were killed and 400,000 were injured throughout the country in crashes involving a distracted driver, accounting for 8% of all traffic deaths. The numbers are likely underreported because law enforcement officers may not always be able to tell that distraction was a factor in a crash. In this year’s California Traffic Safety Survey, more than 70% of respondents identified distracted driving because of texting as their biggest traffic safety concern on California roadways.


“The consequences of distracted driving can be devastating and deadly,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Our goal with this contest is to raise awareness and promote a culture of safety. We hope all Californians will join us and help keep our families, friends and communities safer by putting their phones down and focusing on the road when they drive.”


California’s hands-free law prohibits drivers from using handheld cell phones or similar devices while driving, and any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a handheld or hands-free device. Violations are punishable by fines, and as of July 1, 2021, violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record. 


Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes or mind off the task of driving. In addition to phones, other distractions include eating, grooming, reaching for fallen objects, touching the radio or console controls, changing clothes and deep conversations with passengers.


To test your knowledge about distracted driving facts and statistics, take our quiz. To learn about other helpful ways to stay safe on the go, visit

Study: Most Commuters Text and Email While Driving

A majority of drivers admit they multitask to and from work, including texting, making calls, reading emails or listening to podcasts, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Harvard Business School, Harvard University, University of New Hampshire, and Wellesley College.

More than 80% of commuters were doing at least one other activity while driving like texting or making calls. Nearly 18% of "multitasking" involved reading emails while driving and 9.5% replying to emails, researchers said.

“Our findings suggest that some drivers are already easily distracted, and unable to keep a safe level of engagement," Raffaella Sadun, one of the researchers and a professor at Harvard Business School, said in a news release.

Published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, researchers wanted to determine current and future driving habits of commuters, and how automated cars might be designed to minimize crashes. Researchers interviewed about 400 workers, and found work-related distractions occur more often in the morning as people head to work, and personal-related distractions occur more often as workers head home in the evening.

Evaluating the potential experience of future commutes, researchers noted the danger of when cars are mostly automated, but may still require drivers to take over in emergencies. If people are distracted and multitasking, they may not react as fast as they need to, something that should be factored into automated vehicle design.

“There is clearly a lot to do in car design, but perhaps even more broadly, to accommodate the fact that we are now much more likely to be constantly distracted by phones, emails, social media, and that, for many, controlling the use of technology in the car is clearly challenging,” says Sadun.

Yellow Alert: New Law Establishes System to Help Find

Hit-And-Run Drivers

A new "Yellow Alert" system would inform the public about the need to find a driver involved in a deadly hit-and-run.

Introduced by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), AB 1732 was signed into law last month. by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and would allow local law enforcement to ask the California Highway Patrol to activate a "Yellow Alert." Using the same alert systems as an Amber Alert or Silver Alert, freeway signs in a designated area would show information about a suspect or suspect's vehicle, such as the vehicle license plate, make or model.

“When a driver leaves the scene of the crime, they fail to do the most humane thing – to stay and render critical aid to the person they hurt,” Patterson said in a news release. “We need to do everything possible to help law enforcement find these drivers so they can be held accountable for their actions.”

SCAG Awards Mini-Grants, "Kit of Parts" Expand Statewide

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) awarded more than $350,000 to community and non-profit organizations to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety across the six-county SCAG region (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties). 

The 26 projects are for up to $15,000 to support safe street spaces and implement safety strategies for communities most at risk of traffic injuries or deaths. Recipients were prioritized in historically disadvantaged communities, to help people with disabilities, and make roads safer for essential workers who primarily walk or bike to get around.

Southern California has some of the highest levels of injuries and deaths in the country among bicyclists and pedestrians. In the six-county SCAG region, people who walk and bike make up about 3% of all trips but account for 32% of all roadway fatalities, the organization said.

Recipients were awarded based on community-driven projects, response to community needs and advancing equitable solutions to traffic safety in disadvantaged communities.

"Investing in demonstration projects identified and implemented by each community provides the opportunity to gather feedback and ideas based on experience, ultimately resulting in the best project for the community,” SCAG President and Mayor of Palm Desert Jan Harnik said in a news release. 

The Mini-Grants Program is part of SCAG's regional active transportation safety and encouragement campaign, Go Human, which is funded by the Office of Traffic Safety.

SCAG recently partnered with Caltrans' Active Transportation Research Center (ATRC) and California Walks to provide temporary demonstration projects for three agencies outside the SCAG region to test out. The "Kit of Parts" include a curb extension, artistic crosswalk, protected bike lane, median refuge island, and a sidewalk extension.

Publications and Resources

OTS "Slow the Fast Down" Campaign PSAs

"Slow the Fast Down" Campaign Social Graphics

NHTSA Speed Prevention Campaign Materials

Back to School Safety Press Release Template

Summer Mobilization Press Release Template

Go Safely, California Media Toolkit

OTS Logos

GHSA Report: Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving

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