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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Kills Significant Number of Drivers

According to researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there is a rising number of people who are driving under the influence of drugs both legal and illegal. About one in five drivers who were killed from car accidents over the last year tested positive for drugs. Researchers caution that while drivers tested positive for drugs, it is not clear whether the drugs were the primary cause of the crashes.

Researchers tested for both legal and illegal drugs. They tested for substances such as prescription drugs, inhalants, heroin, morphine, methadone, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD and marijuana. Different types of drugs remain in the body for different periods of time. Because of that factor, researchers say it is hard to determine when drivers used substances before the occurrence of the accidents. A driver’s judgment can be impaired by many types of drugs but researchers are still trying to figure out the amount of different drugs it takes to affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. While we are all familiar with the alcohol legal limit of 0.08, levels of impairment for other drugs remain unclear.

Of the 22,000 drivers killed in car accidents in 2009, 4,000 of those drivers tested positively for drugs. Those numbers mean that 18 percent of drivers who were killed last year had drugs in their system. Researchers believe that numbers could be even larger because only three out of five drivers were tested for drugs after accidents occurred. Experts believe that improved testing procedures and standards for drug detection among driver would help improve the fatal statistics.

Source: Associated Press, “Gov’t: Drugs Were in 1 in 5 Drivers Killed in 2009,” Ken Thomas, 11/30/2010

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