Its well known that drunk driving can have fatal consequences, but a new study suggests that alcohol is not the only drug thats a danger on the road.
It might make sense that drugs like marijuana or amphetamines would impair drivers and lead to crashes. But few studies have actually looked specifically at the impact of other drugs on traffic deaths -- even as there is an increasing push to pass drugged driving laws nationally. In the new study, reported in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that of U.S. drivers who died in a crash, about 25% tested positive for drugs. The most common drugs were marijuana and stimulants, including cocaine and amphetamines, which each accounted for almost one quarter of the positive tests.
Its not clear whether the drugs were to blame for the crashes, the researchers say. Some people who use illegal drugs may simply be reckless drivers in general, for instance.
On the other hand, a recent government study found that of U.S. drivers who were randomly pulled over, 14% tested positive for drugs. The fact that drug use was almost twice as high among drivers in fatal crashes suggests that drugs do contribute to road deaths.
The suspicion is there, because when you look at drivers whove been in fatal crashes, the percentage using drugs is a good deal higher, said study co-author Robert B. Voas, Ph.D., of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland.
For the general public, the message is simple.
Dont drink or dont consume drugs when youre going to drive, said Eduardo Romano, Ph.D., the lead author on the study.
The issue is more complicated, though, when it comes to lawmaking, according to the researchers.
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|Contact: Diane Williams|
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs