Forty-four percent of fatally injured drivers tested for drugs had positive results in 2016, the Governors Highway Safety Association found, up more than 50 percent compared with a decade ago. More than half the drivers tested positive for marijuana, opioid or a combination of the two.
As legal marijuana spreads and the opioid epidemic rages on, the number of drugged drivers killed in car crashes is rising dramatically, according to a report released today. Forty-four percent of fatally injured drivers tested for drugs had positive results in 2016, the Governors Highway Safety Association found, up more than 50 percent compared with a decade ago, Stateline reports. More than half the drivers tested positive for marijuana, opioids or a combination of the two. “These are big-deal drugs. They are used a lot,” said Jim Hedlund, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based traffic safety consultant who conducted the study. “People should not be driving while they’re impaired by anything and these two drugs can impair you.”
Nine states and Washington, D.C., allow marijuana to be sold for recreational use, and 21 others allow it to be sold for medical use. Opioid addiction and overdoses have become a national crisis, with an estimated 115 deaths daily. States are struggling to get a handle on drugged driving. Experts say that while it’s easy for police to test drivers for alcohol impairment using a breathalyzer, it’s much harder to detect and screen them for drug impairment. “With alcohol, we have 30 years of research looking at the relationship between how much alcohol is in a person’s blood and the odds they will cause a traffic crash,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s traffic safety director. “For drugs, that relationship is not known.”Drivers often are using more than one drug at once. The new study found that about half of drivers who died and tested positive for drugs in 2016 were found to have two or more drugs in their system. Alcohol is also part of the mix. About half the dead drivers who tested positive for alcohol also tested positive for drugs.