Drivers Killed in Crashes More Likely to Have Used Drugs Than Alcohol

marijuana, joint, driving, car

For the first time, U.S. drivers killed in crashes in 2015 were more likely to have used drugs than alcohol, according to a new study.

The study found 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, compared with 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above a legal limit, Reuters reports.

Among drivers who died in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, while 9.3 percent used amphetamines. The report was released by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit funded by distillers.

“People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability,” said Jim Hedlund, a former official at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, who wrote the report. “If you’re on a drug that does so, you shouldn’t be driving.”

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    April 29, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    The State of NC doesn’t require drug testing of DWI offenders during the DWI substance abuse assessment, nor does the State require treatment for drug use by DWI offenders. A large portion of DWI offenders, especially younger drivers, have more than one drug in their system at the time of their arrest, by their self report during the assessment. Not testing and treating drivers’ drug use leads to more serious problems and more deaths. Wake County NC has reduced DWI enforcement by 40-50% in last 2+ years. If NC was serious about opioid epidemic, it would include testing DWI offenders during the assessment and throughout treatment.

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    Mark Nason

    April 28, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    Yes, the report cited does indicate that people were more likely to have “used” drugs than to have used alcohol prior to fatal crashes. Nevertheless, the report also states, “For these and other reasons, FARS drug data should be interpreted with caution.” The main reason being that much of the FARS data does not adequately distinguish recent use of marijuana from use days earlier. This is not to discount the increase in marijuana-related or other drug-related fatalities. In fact, blood tests for THC in Washington state indicates there was an increase in the percentage of fatal crashes due to impairment of marijuana after legalization of recreational use occurred ( For credibility’s sake, it is important to present data with appropriate cautions.

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    Jill Arnold

    April 27, 2017 at 3:16 PM

    Did the study include opiate users?

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