More Fatal Traffic Accidents Due to Drugs Than Alcohol

More Fatal Traffic Accidents Due to Drugs Than Alcohol

44 percent of drivers who died in fatal car crashes in 2016 tested positive for drugs, the first year drug-related driver deaths have exceeded alcohol-related driver deaths.

Drug-related deaths jumped from their levels from just 10 years ago when 28 percent of crashes were caused by drug-related issues, a new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association said. By comparison, alcohol-related deaths were slightly down, from 41 percent in 2006 to just under 38 percent in 2016.

Significant increases were scored for marijuana, the study found.

Among drug-positive fatally-injured drivers in 2016, 38 percent tested positive for some form of marijuana, 16 percent tested positive for opioids, and 4 percent tested positive for both marijuana and opioids.

The report, Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States, also reveals that driver fatalities involving alcohol-and-drug combinations increased by more than 16 percent from 2006 to 2016.

“Adding to these concerns is the frequency of poly-drug use, or the use of multiple potentially-impairing substances simultaneously,” the report said. “In 2016, 51 percent of drug-positive fatally-injured drivers were found positive for two or more drugs. Alcohol is often in the mix as well: 49 percent of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for alcohol in 2016 also tested positive for drugs.”

Tough to get the whole story

Another problem is that field testing for impairment, especially for marijuana, is woefully behind the times. No nationally accepted methods or technology to ascertain any level of impairment has yet been developed.

Also, said the report, it's difficult to test for all the drugs that can cause impairment. And to make it even more complex, depending on the drugs used and the driver who took them, the impairing effects could vary by a considerable amount.

The author of the report, former senior National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official Dr. Jim Hedlund, explained that it’s even more complicated than that.

“Drugs can impair, and drug-impaired drivers can crash,” Hedlund said. “But it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs. [And] drivers who are drug-positive may not necessarily be impaired.”

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a not-for-profit group of distilleries and alcoholic beverage makers and marketers, funded the report. Their website, responsibility.org, offers information about how to responsibly deal with alcohol, and also offers strategies to help limit or even eliminate driving while impaired.

“Alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can no longer be treated as separate issues,” said Ralph Blackman, President and CEO of responsibility.org. “Drunk driving, which was involved in 28 percent of 2016 traffic fatalities, remains a critical issue; however, to curb impaired driving, we have to think about the combination of substances drivers are often putting into their systems at the same time.”

If you or someone you care for needs help with any kind of substance use disorder, please call Novus right away at (855) 464-8550. We’ll help you find the right solution to the problem.

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