Study: Drugged Driving Fatalities Increase in the US

By Joe Gullo

Published 02/17 2014 01:14PM

Updated 02/17 2014 06:14PM

NEW YORK - A study released by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found an increase in drugged driving fatalities in the U.S. 

A press release says the Mailman School of Public Health examined toxicology testing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The data found that 23,591 drivers were killed within one hour of a crash, of those, 39.7% tested positive for alcohol and 24.8% for other drugs.

“Although earlier research showed that drug use is associated with impaired driving performance and increased crash risk, trends in narcotic involvement in driver fatalities have been understudied,” said Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention. “Given the increasing availability of marijuana and the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, understanding the role of controlled substances in motor vehicle crashes is of significant public health importance.”

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, the prevalence of non-alcoholic drugs rose from 16.6% in 1999 to 28.3% in 2010. Marijuana rates rose from 4.2% to 12.2% during the same period. Alcohol results remained stable from 1999 to 2010.

The study used data from 6 states, California; Hawaii; Illinois; New Hampshire; Rhode Island; and West Virginia. 

Authors note limitations of the study based on limited data from only 6 states and not taking into account drug type, dosage, and the driver's physiological response and tolerance level. 

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