Drugged Driving on the Rise in America
Although driving under the influence of alcohol has decreased over recent years, the same cannot be said for drugged driving. We’ll give you a snapshot of this disturbing and growing trend today, including a glimpse at which drugs are used in impaired driving incidents.
Is Impaired Driving Really Increasing?
A recent University of Cincinnati study looks at drugged driving through the lens of NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use) and Health data from 2016 to 2018.
Researchers led by Andrew Yockey learned that:
- 8% of adults surveyed reported driving after drinking alcohol
- 4% of drivers reported using marijuana
- Marijuana and opioids are the drugs drivers most commonly abuse in the US
Drink driving has declined significantly thanks to public awareness campaigns, the media’s representation of driving under the influence as antisocial, and law enforcement. From 2002 to 2001, the number of fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving fell by 27%. This number reached the lowest point since NHTSA started reporting this data in 2019.
Although this is a positive trend, it still translates to 10,142 preventable deaths in a single year.
Also, while it’s encouraging that fewer drivers on American roads are under the influence of alcohol, many drivers are not only drinking and driving, but also throwing other drugs into the mix. Many drivers in the Cincinnati study used alcohol in combination with other drugs when driving.
It’s not possible to make sweeping comments based on a single study, so which drugs present most threat when used by drivers?
Which Drugs Feature in Most Drugged Driving Incidents
When it comes to driving under the influence accidents, the following drugs are most often to blame:
According to the most recent 2014 data from the National Roadside Survey, about 20% of drivers tested positive for at least one drug. This number has increased from 16% in 2007.
In 2015, more people died from drugged driving than from drink driving.
Data shows that the drugs drivers report using most frequently while impaired driving are marijuana (38% of drivers) and opioids (16% of drivers).
Another study of college students showed that 17% had driven under the influence of drugs other than alcohol at least once during the previous year. The most commonly used drug when drugged driving was marijuana. Students also drove after taking cocaine and prescription painkillers.
Marijuana is the drug that appears most frequently in the bloodstream of drivers involved in accidents. What’s not so clear is the role THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) plays in crashes. This compound is detectable in bodily fluids for weeks after use. It appears that the risk for road traffic accidents linked to marijuana increases when users combine the substance with alcohol or other drugs.
With marijuana laws rapidly changing across the US, and the opioid epidemic still not fully controlled, what drugged driving dangers should you be on the lookout for today?
The Dangers of Drugged Driving
Different drugs impact driving skills in different ways.
- Benzodiazepines: Cause drowsiness
- Cocaine: Encourages reckless driving
- Marijuana: Dulls reaction times, blunts coordination, impairs judgment of distance, speed, and time
- Meth: Leads to dangerous and aggressive driving
- Opioids: Cause dizziness and drowsiness, impairs thinking and judgment
Impaired Driving Statistics
The 2018 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) shows that 12.6 million people drove under the influence of illegal drugs.
Men are more likely than women to drive after using drugs.
Adults aged 21 to 25 are more likely to drive after drinking or using drugs than other demographics.
A handful of studies show that drivers with THC in their blood are twice as likely to cause a deadly crash than sober drivers. That said, a large-scale NHTSA study showed no increase in crash risk associable with marijuana. More research is needed in this area, vital with the drug now decriminalized across much of the United States.
Using opioids when driving doubles your risk of causing an accident.
Drugged Driving Laws
It’s tough to accurately establish how drugs affect driving. Tolerance is one variable at play. Beyond this, many drivers combine drugs, including alcohol.
Even small quantities of some drugs can have a noticeable effect on driving skills, so some states implement zero-tolerance drugged driving laws. Many other states are waiting, though. Laws can be better shaped when thorough research into blood levels that impair driving skills is available.
The current legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary rather than science-backed. In some states, per se limits specify the maximum amount of THC permissible in the bloodstream when driving. THC in the blood typically indicates recent marijuana use.
What Comes Next
Are you concerned about a loved one driving under the influence of drugs? If so, and if you feel they have are dependent, why not reach out?
Here at Landmark Recovery, we’re here to help one million people addicted to drink or drugs over this coming decade. This can only have a positive effect on drugged driving in the United States. Call today at 888-448-0302.