Study: More Than Half of Car Crash Victims Weren’t Sober

A US government-led study found that over half of people injured or killed in car crashes tested positive for one or more drugs, including alcohol.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that 55,8% of 7,279 injured or killed roadway users had drugs or alcohol in their system.

The most prevalent drug category was cannabinoids (active THC), with 25.1% of the victims testing positive, followed by alcohol at 23.1%. One in five (19.9%) injured or killed road users tested positive for two or more categories of drugs.

The study also found that 54.4% of drivers, including motorcycle operators, presenting to the trauma centers tested positive for one or more drugs, with cannabinoids being the most prevalent.

“Among drivers, males and females showed differences in drug category positivity, with males more likely to be positive for some categories of drugs (i.e., alcohol, cannabinoids, stimulants) and females more likely to be positive for others (i.e., sedatives, antidepressants, over-the-counter drugs),” the study says.

Ann Carlson, NHTSA Acting Administrator, says that taking a sober ride “is critical to saving lives this holiday season.”

“I urge everyone to do their part to end these preventable tragedies by always driving sober, designating a sober driver, using public transportation or calling a taxi or ride-hailing service,” she said in a press release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only two glasses of beer may result in a decline in visual functions, such as rapid tracking of a moving target. Meanwhile, having three drinks may reduce coordination and response to emergency driving situations. In addition, it can pose difficulty steering.

Marijuana may also affect functions necessary for driving. For example, it can impair coordination, distort perception, slow reaction times, and reduce the ability to make decisions, the CDC says.

Despite the fewer drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, road fatalities began increasing in the US. The NHTSA Behavioral Safety Research revealed that those who remained on the road engaged in riskier behavior, such as speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.


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