It’s a no-brainer that drinking and driving is a recipe for disaster. It should be no surprise to anyone that driving and drug use is equally dangerous. A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sheds a little light on just how dangerous driving and drug use has become. The report, the first-ever analysis of drug involvement among deceased drivers in fatal crashes, shows that use of drugs by those drivers increased over the past five years.According to the data, compiled over a five-year period (from 2005 to 2009), 63 percent of the 21,798 drivers killed in 2009 in motor vehicle crashes were tested for drugs. Of these, 3,952 tested positive for drugs – or 18 percent of that year’s total. The report also shows that reports by states for drug use among fatally injured drivers increased from 13 percent in 2005, to 15 percent in 2006, 16 percent in 2007 and 18 percent in 2008.
The NHTSA cautioned that drug involvement does not mean the driver was impaired or that drug use was the cause of the crash. The data was collected by the NHTSA as part of its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The types of drugs recorded by FARS include anabolic steroids, cannabinoids, depressants, hallucinogens, inhalants, narcotics, phencyclidines (PCPs), and stimulants. Drugs included illicit or street drugs, as well as legally prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medications.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, in announcing the drug findings, noted that the report “provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs, not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at great risk.”
Strickland also cautioned that drug testing was unavailable for a large number of fatally injured drivers. In addition, there’s wide variance among states on testing for drugs. Some states, and even jurisdictions within a state, may test for different drugs, make use of different test types, and/or employ different concentration thresholds for determining whether a test for drugs is positive or not.
“While it’s clear that science and state policies regarding drugs and driving are evolving, one fact is indisputable,” Strickland continued. “If you are taking any drugs that might impair your ability to drive safely, then you need to put common sense and caution to the forefront…It doesn’t matter if it’s drugs or alcohol, if you’re impaired, don’t drive.”
The NHTSA report should be an eye-opener to all drivers – especially during the upcoming holiday period. Every driver should take care to avoid all use of drugs and alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Driving demands our utmost attention to the task.
Keep you and your family safe when you’re on the road. Forget the drug use – or find someone else to drive if you absolutely must take a prescription drug that might impair your driving ability.
Oh, and in case you think you’re getting away with something, smoking that joint or driving after doing cocaine or meth, think again. Under the NHTSA’s Drug Evaluation and Classification program, the agency has prepared 1,000 instructors and trained more than 6,000 police officers in 46 states to recognize symptoms of driver impairment by drugs other than alcohol.