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NHTSA: More Auto Fatalities Involve Drug Use

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In 2009, 18% of all victims of fatal traffic accidents had some sort of drug – illicit, legally prescribed or over-the-counter medicines – in their system, according to NHTSA. That’s 5 percentage points higher than in 2005, according to USA Today. The types of drugs recorded included narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, phencyclidines, anabolic steroids and inhalants.

“Today’s report provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at risk.”

Out of the 21,798 people who died in auto accidents last year, at least 3,952 of them showed “drug involvement,” the NHTSA report says. The agency doesn’t have a complete picture, however, as only 63 percent of all fatally injured drivers were tested for the presence of drugs.

The agency points out that while there is a strong link between crash victims and drug use, there isn’t enough research to imply a direct correlation between the two like there is for alcohol impairment and operating a vehicle.

“Drug involvement does not necessarily imply impairment or indicate that drug use was the cause of the crash,” said Strickland, who cautions that despite incomplete research, “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.”

NHTSA is continuing to research and better understand the correlation between drug levels and driver impairment. To read the full report, go here.

Report is First Ever Analysis of Drug Involvement Among Deceased Drivers in Fatal Crashes (NHTSA)

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