Drunk driving has been an issue to which much airtime has been devoted over the past few decades, but impaired drivers are still plaguing US roads and leaving a wake of destruction and death in their wake, perhaps far more than we’d previously believed, as per a recent study.
Data on fatal crashes and road deaths collected in more than a dozen states by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was examined by researchers as they looked at the impacted of impaired driving (be it alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs affecting drivers), and the results heavily implicated driving while under the influence as a major contributor to traffic fatalities.
Looking at 20,150 drivers killed between 2005 and 2009, researchers at Columbia University discovered that a full 57 percent had tested positive for at least one drug. Twenty percent of those drivers tested positive for more than one substance at the time of their deaths.
Not surprisingly, alcohol was the most commonly cited drug in the study with marijuana and stimulants following. Men were far more likely to have been impaired at the time of their deaths driving at sixty percent, while less than half of women drivers killed at the wheel tested positive for impairment.
Researchers admit that, aside from alcohol, it is difficult to determine the impact of any one drug on an individual’s ability to drive as the amounts and individual synthesis of the medication or street drug varies widely based on a number of factors.
Robert Voas studies alcohol and highway safety at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland, and, while Voas was not involved in the research, he says:
“There already is quite a bit of research that’s probably going to continue to try and identify in drugs the point at which they are impairing … With alcohol, the amount of alcohol is more or less directly related to the level of behavior impairment. The relationship of a drug in the body to the behavior of the driver is less direct and clear.”
The impaired driving study was published in the journal Addiction.