For the first time, statistics show that drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs than drunk.
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 (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
Of the drivers who tested positive for drugs, more than a third had used marijuana and more than 9 percent had taken amphetamines.
“As drunken driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically, and many of today’s impaired drivers are combining two or more substances,” said Ralph S. Blackman, president of the foundation, a nonprofit founded and funded by a group of distillers.
The report is narrowly focused on fatal crashes. It shows that among fatally injured drivers with known test results, 2015 was the first time that drug use was more prevalent than alcohol use.
Beyond that, however, it draws on other studies and statistics that create a complicated portrait of legal and illegal drug use nationwide. Every state bans driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The opioid epidemic — heroin use and the abuse of prescription drugs — is well established. In 2015, more than 33,000 people fatally overdosed on opioids, almost equal to the 35,095 people killed that year in all traffic crashes.
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, the latest year for which data is available.
Though the dates when each state passed a law vary, that period coincided with more-permissive laws covering the use of marijuana.
Medical use of the drug is now allowed in 29 states and the District of Columbia; 17 states permit its use in some medical circumstances; use has been decriminalized in 21 states; and recreational use is allowed in eight states and the District.
SOURCE: Ashley Halsey III
The Washington Post