Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Drugged driving more common than drunk driving in fatal crashes

Speed kills but for the first time a study reported the number of drivers who tested positive for drugs after dying in a crash rose from almost 28 percent in 2005 to 43 percent in 2015. (Toby Talb Drug use eclipses alcohol use in fatal crashes for first time
Tracy Craig | 28 April, 2017, 01:40

The drugged driving report, which summarizes findings from multiple studies, said law enforcement officers often have a hard time recognizing drivers under the influence of drugs, who are more difficult to assess than those driving drunk.

"As drunk driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically".

Safety advocates are calling for increased training for law enforcement officers to help them identify and arrest drugged drivers.

"We have new data that show drugs are more prevalent to drivers than alcohol is for the first time".

Forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, eclipsing the 37 percent who tested above the legal limit for alcohol, according to a report released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

"Whether it's drugs or whether it's alcohol, we know that impairment is a unsafe thing behind the wheel", said Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator, Chrissy Nizer. The report recommends that states develop education campaigns, which can include discussing drugged driving in driver education classes, and informing physicians and pharmacists about risks from driving on prescription drugs. Accounting for rounding, a total of 43 percent of the tested cases had some kind of drug in their system. There were 18,493 crashes involving drugs from 2006 to 2015, according to traffic crash reports provided by the Michigan State Police.

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Investigators checked for alcohol at a somewhat higher rate, testing 71 percent of killed motorists.

"People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability", said Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report.

Also, there is no valid roadside device police can use to test for marijuana and other drugs the way they use breathalyzers to test for alcohol. Pennsylvania recently tested all DUI blood samples and found 50 percent also contained drugs, he said, and drugged driving was a primary topic at the annual Pennsylvania Highway Safety Conference in State College recently. 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.

According to traffic crash statistics released previous year, OH has seen a 25 percent increase in drugged driving crashes since 2012.

"Years ago, the common phrase at a party at the end of the night was, 'How about one for the road?'" Mr. Hedlund said.

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