Judith Garrard, Professor, School of Public Health
This is a new initiative on use of licit drugs by the elderly that can result in impaired driving and motor vehicle mortality. Although the emphasis in this project is on elderly persons, the broader issue of the relationship between licit drug use and impaired driving for people of all ages is also of interest. Licit drugs include both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Elderly persons (age 65 and above), have the highest medication use rate in the U.S. Some medications, such as psychotropic drugs used to treat mental illness, can directly impact driving ability. A statewide program does not exist to cope with increasing numbers of elderly and the concomitant rise in licit drug-related impaired driving. This initiative is one of the first steps in building a foundation for such a program. The specific aims of this initiative are to (1) explore the governmental infrastructure and resources pertaining to these issues, (2) establish strategic partnerships needed to develop a future program designed to reduce motor vehicular mortality and (3) define a plan for a future research study and/or demonstration project. This initiative will lead to a research study which will, in turn, provide the basis for a future statewide program to monitor and reduce mortality of people of all ages due to licit drug-related impaired driving by elderly. The goals of the future program are: (1) to develop procedures for systematically monitoring the prevalence of vehicular mortality due to licit drug-related impaired driving; (2) to design statistical procedures for identifying people at risk for vehicular mortality due to licit drug use; and (3) to develop an educational program for the public, law enforcement professionals, health care providers, and legislative and policy decision makers about the role of licit drugs in vehicular mortality.