Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fatal accidents are now more likely to involve drugs than alcohol

Fatal accidents, for the first time, are more likely to involve drugs than alcohol, says a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. In 2015, the last year for which figures are available, 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes had drugs present in their system, compared to 37 percent with alcohol, Ashley Halsey III reports for The Washington Post. She reports that 33,000 people fatally overdosed on opioids in 2015, "almost equal to the 35,095 people killed that year in all traffic crashes." (Study graphic: Percent of drivers with drugs detected)
"Although the liberalization of marijuana laws and increase in drug-use fatalities might lead to an easy conclusion, the report cites European studies that found marijuana use slightly increased the risk of a crash, while opioids, amphetamines and mixing alcohol with drugs greatly increased the risk of a crash," Halsey writes. "Counterbalancing that assessment of crash risk is this stark statistic: In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 48 percent after the state legalized recreational use of the drug."

Halsey adds, "The challenge to police in attempting to enforce laws against drug-using drivers is compounded because many officers lack training to identify those under the influence of drugs, and delays in testing may allow the drug to metabolize so the results do not accurately measure the concentration in the driver’s system at the time of the incident."

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