More than 55 percent of participants in serious or fatal traffic accidents tested positive for drugs or alcohol, according to a new study.
Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of fatal car crashes in the United States. Alcohol and drugs impair a person’s reaction time, thinking skills and physical ability to navigate the road.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 people die each day in drunk-driving crashes in the United States, and it’s unclear how many more are involved in drunk-driving crashes.
However, the researchers in this new study sought to expand the understanding of road safety by going beyond drivers. Their study, published this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, looked at information from passengers, cyclists, e-scooter riders and pedestrians, and drivers involved in accidents.
The study found that one in four serious or fatal accidents involved people who tested positive for some form of weed, and nearly one in four had alcohol in their system.
About 11% of people Tested positive for some form of stimulant, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, and 9 percent had opioids in their system.
In 32% of fatal cases Accidents and 18% of serious injuries involved people with two or more drugs in their system. This is consistent with previous research that has found, for example, that combining substances such as marijuana and alcohol leads to more serious injuries and more fatal driving accidents than either substance alone, especially for young drivers In terms of.
It’s important to note that the presence of a substance in someone’s system doesn’t necessarily mean they’re compromised, the researchers said.
They looked at records from September 2019 to July 2021 at level-one trauma centers in Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami; Baltimore; Worcester, Massachusetts; Iowa City, Iowa; and Sacramento, California.
The findings don’t necessarily apply across the country, but research psychologist Amy Berning, who worked on the report, said the researchers chose trauma centers that represented areas with large numbers of patients from both urban and rural areas.
“For years, we’ve worried about DUIs or people who are drug-positive,” Berning said. “We’ve seen this in other studies where we’ve seen a percentage of people also drive and travel on the roads in other ways, and it really shows that we need to make sure we continue to work on prevention and various countermeasures to address poor driving. ”
In February, a national survey found that more than 40 percent of alcohol or marijuana users reported drinking and driving.
DUI accidents “are especially tragic because they are 100% preventable. There is no reason or excuse for impaired driving due to alcohol or other drugs. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, DUIs, whether alcoholic or otherwise legal Or illegal drugs, are illegal,” said Ann Carlson, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Impaired driving has killed more than 10,000 people Carlson said every year in the United States. Mothers Against Drunk Driving national chair Alex Otte said the numbers had been trending down for years but had been picking up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings of the new study drove her “crazy”.
“I think the drive home sends a message to people that even if you’re not the one who made the wrong choice, consider the fact that you’re on the road with people — probably more than 50% of them — who made the wrong choice. Wrong choices on certain things, whether it’s alcohol or other drugs, and being aware of the sheer magnitude of that number will demonstrate not just why the number of casualties is but what a problem it is,” Ott said. “The message that all of us can be part of the solution here is very important.”
She said it’s important to have a plan, especially around the holidays, when there are so many people celebrating. Use ride-sharing or public transportation, or ask someone who doesn’t drink to be your designated driver.
“We want people to enjoy the holidays and spend time with family and friends. It’s been a tough few years,” Ott said. “But do it in a way that makes sure we all get home at night.”