Federal study: Drug-impaired driving a growing problem

Traffic Safety Pulse News

Graphic of a ski hill with cars at the bottom, text overlay reads "Driving High is a Slippery Slope to a DUI"(Pittsburgh Union Progress) Drug-impaired driving — especially impairment from cannabinoids — is a growing problem that states have to address, according to the largest study of seriously injured and fatal accident victims released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The 73-page study of 7,279 accident victims found that 55.8% of those injured or killed had one or more drugs in their system. Cannabinoids, which include marijuana, was the most prevalent at 25.1% positive, followed by alcohol at 23.1%, stimulants at 10.8% and opioids at 9.3%.

A total of 19.9% had two or more drugs in their system. 

The study was conducted for nine to 22 months ending in July 2021 in seven jurisdictions with Level 1 trauma centers and medical examiners reporting results: Jacksonville, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Baltimore; Worcester, Mass.; Iowa City, Iowa; and Sacramento, Calif.

The report is a follow-up to a smaller study two years ago that suggested cannabinoids were a growing problem, and the information is important because of the increasing number of states decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.

“It’s incredibly important because we can say cannabis is a growing factor in crashes, and we need to deal with it,” said Pam Shadel Fischer, senior director of external engagement for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “The data is really important because it tells us what areas we should go after. These are entirely preventable crashes that are the result of risky behavior.” Read more about drug-impaired driving here.