Drugs Now Involved in More Fatal US Crashes Than Alcohol Alone

Posted April 28, 2017

"Public awareness of the drugged driving issue is critical to finding a solution", said AAA Spokesperson, Cindy Antrican. "The new statistics mirror what the public is already feeling which is the dire threat to their safety posed by drugged driving".

"Drug impaired driving is increasing", said Jim Hedlund a private consultant from Ithaca, N.Y. who conducted the study for the Governors Highway Safety Association.

One of the report's key recommendations is increased training for law enforcement officers to help them identify and arrest drugged drivers.

For the first time, statistics show that drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs then drunk.

To help detect these impairments law enforcement agencies are hiring drug recognition experts.

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The message coming out about the nationwide study is that anti-drugged driving efforts require the same attention that drunk driving had 40 years ago. "Drug impairment has different signs and symptoms - think of the difference between uppers and downers". According to the report, marijuana can increase the risk of crashing by 22 to 36 percent. This included illegal drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medicines. It goes on to say police may have a harder time identifying those drugged drivers.

Investigators checked for alcohol at a somewhat higher rate, testing 71 percent of killed motorists. Furthermore, the records only record drug presence, not drug concentrations that can be compared to blood-alcohol levels.

Roadside screenings for drugs that use saliva are being tested, and tests that use breath are being developed, Hedlund said.

Delays in drawing blood for a test can allow drugs to metabolize in the system and not provide an accurate measure, while some drugs can remain in the body for days or weeks, long after impairment has ended, the report noted. Responsibity.org, the website for the alcohol responsibility group, is providing $100,000 in grants this year to IL and four other states to train officers.

"Years ago, the common phrase at a party at the end of the night was, 'How about one for the road?'" Mr. Hedlund said. Some new efforts from across the US highlighted by the report include a competitive 2016 grant program through the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility that will give five winning states - Illinois, Montana, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin - $100,000 to supplement the implementation cost of Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and Drug Recognition Expert training.