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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Drug Use a Factor in a Quarter of Road Deaths, Study Finds

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There is no shortage of information available on crashes caused by drunken drivers. The same cannot be said of drivers who use drugs. Until now.

A new study suggests drivers who die in crashes test positive for drug use in a quarter of these incidents. “Researchers examined data on more than 44,000 drivers in single-vehicle crashes who died between 1999 and 2009. They found that 24.9 percent tested positive for drugs and 37 percent had blood-alcohol levels in excess of 0.08, the legal limit,” USA Today reported.

The study also showed that 58 percent of the at-fault drivers had no alcohol in their systems and 5 percent had BACs lower than 0.08. The data was derived from a government database on traffic fatalities.

The authors of the study, Eduardo Romano and Robert Voas of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland (MD) are saying this study is one of the first in the country to show widespread drug use among fatally injured drivers. Of the drivers who tested positive for drugs, 22 percent were positive for marijuana, 22 percent for stimulants and 9 percent for narcotics, according to the newspaper.

As experienced personal injury attorneys based in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), we have reported on how driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is far more prevalent than many people imagine. More than 11,000 people are killed in drunk driving accidents each year in the United States, and every 45 minutes at least one person dies in an accident linked to alcohol or drugs.

The drugged driving problem is not restricted to people using illegal drugs. While most of us are acutely aware of the risks associated with drinking and driving, driving after consuming a prescription medication can be just as deadly. Many common medications have serious side effects such as making it difficult to concentrate and causing blurred vision and drowsiness. We have reported at length how drowsiness is a common cause of accidents.

Before this new study there was evidence suggesting drugs may be responsible for more accidents than hitherto believed. A recent study found roughly 34 percent of motor vehicle crash drivers admitted to testing positive for "drugs only" while only 16 percent tested positive for "alcohol only." And this did not include people who were unwilling to disclose their test results, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It’s questionable whether states are geared up to deal with the problem of driving under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol. USA Today reported only 19 states have legislation that bans any amount of drugs while operating a vehicle, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

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