NHTSA says 1 in 5 fatally injured drivers may have been impaired by drugs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (or FARS) has released new data regarding drug use and driving, indicating that the issue may influence up to 33% of driver fatalities.

The NHTSA points out that drug use is not necessarily the cause of fatal accidents, but that many drivers involved are found to have used legally prescribed, over-the-counter, or illicit substances- an issue they believe warrants some concern:

According to data compiled by NHTSA, 63 percent of the 21,798 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 were tested for drugs. Of these, 3,952 tested positive for drug involvement, representing 18 percent of the total for that year. The report also showed drug use reported by the states among fatally injured drivers increasing from 13 percent in 2005, to 15 percent in 2006, 16 percent in 2007, and 18 percent in 2008.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland pointed out some variance in the study’s results, noting that post-mortem drug testing is not always available or carried out. Yet he warns that drivers need to exercise more caution in discerning when drugs, not just alcohol, may make driving unsafe:

“While it’s clear that science and state policies regarding drugs and driving are evolving, one fact is indisputable. 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, and give your keys to someone else. It doesn’t matter if its drugs or alcohol, if you’re impaired, don’t drive,” Administrator Strickland warned.

You can read the NHTSA’s full statement here.