Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

Drug use tops booze for first time in fatal USA 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 tops booze for first time in fatal USA crashes
Arthur Frazier | 28 April, 2017, 01:42

"As states across the country continue to struggle with drug-impaired driving, it's critical that we help them understand the current landscape and provide examples of best practices so they can craft the most effective countermeasures", said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of GHSA.

Of the drivers who tested positive for drugs more than a third had used marijuana, and more than 9% had taken amphetamines. "If you're on a drug that does so, you shouldn't be driving".

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

Statistics in the study show drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers in crash fatalities. This included illegal drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medicines.

James Hedlund, a private consultant from Ithaca, N.Y., updated a study he did in 2014 and found that in 2015, for the first time, more drivers who were tested after fatal crashes had drugs in their system (41.7 percent) than had alcohol (37.3 percent).

"Whether it's drugs or whether it's alcohol, we know that impairment is a risky thing behind the wheel", said Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator, Chrissy Nizer.

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Identifying drugged drivers, as opposed to drunk drivers, can sometimes be hard for law enforcement officers and the numbers of drugged drivers on the roads are climbing, according to information from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Marijuana can increase crash risk by 22 to 36 percent, according to studies cited in the report. Furthermore, the records only record drug presence, not drug concentrations that can be compared to blood-alcohol levels.

Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report, told Reuters that many drivers don't have a full appreciation of the affects of drug use on driving ability and reaction time. "The relationship between alcohol and crash risk has been known for 40 years". For three hours Wednesday, experts came together to address some of the challenges of drugged driving in our state, like tracking incidents, finding resources and making sure people are informed.

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

In crashes where the driver died, 57 percent of drivers had their blood tested.

"If you are using a substance that might impair you, you shouldn't drive", Hedlund said.

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