Fatal car crashes with drivers under the influence of drugs are on the rise. A newly published report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests the rise of opioid and marijuana use is leading to more accidents involving impaired drivers.
According to Fox News, the GHSA report found 44 percent of drivers in a fatal crash tested positive for some type of drug. Of those, 38 percent had marijuana in their system, 16 percent were positive for opioids, and 4 percent had both.
With the U.S. facing an opioid crisis and more states legalizing marijuana, the study raises serious concern for public safety. While the numbers point to a connection, the researchers are not certain the extent drugs play in fatal accidents.
“Drugs can impair, and drug-impaired drivers can crash,” said Dr. Jim Hedlund, one of the study’s authors, per an NBC News report. “But it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs. Drivers who are drug-positive may not necessarily be impaired.”
For the past few decades, law enforcement has been successful in catching drivers under the influence of alcohol. With a standardized test for blood alcohol content, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are easily investigated. Thus far, there is no standard test for drivers under the influence of marijuana or opioids, making the cause of the accident difficult to determine.
The new GHSA report found 49 percent of drivers in a fatal car crash were under the influence of both alcohol and other drugs, seeming to suggest the simultaneous use of several drugs is on the rise.
“Alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can no longer be treated as separate issues,” said Responsibility.org CEO Ralph Blackman. “We have to think about the combination of substances drivers are often putting into their systems at the same time.”
The GHSA is trying to increase awareness of drugged driving through various media campaigns. The association is also pushing for new testing methods and more law enforcement participation.
Jonathan Adkins, the executive director of GHSA, says many people incorrectly believe marijuana or opioids do not impair the ability to drive. To combat these misbeliefs, he thinks states need to toughen impaired driver laws as well as increase public education of drugged driving issues.