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DUIDs Rival DUIs as Cause of Driver Fatalities

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, be they prescription, illegal, or marijuana, now accounts for 40 percent of driver fatalities, about the same as alcohol-related deaths, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
October 2, 2015, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"A quadrupling in the use of prescription drugs since 1999, and legalization of marijuana use in some states are cited among the reasons drug use has become an increasing threat to roadway safety," writes Ashley Halsey III of The Washington Post. 


Credit: Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

The number of dead drivers who tested positive for drugs has increased from 29 percent in 2005 to 39.9 percent in 2013, the report said, citing federal crash data.

The report from the GHSA, an "organization of state highway safety officers," draws on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

“We look to the federal government to take a leadership role in this issue similar to that of drunk driving and seat-belt use,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

"Marijuana is legal in some form in 23 states and the District of Columbia, while other states are considering legalization," writes Halsey III. "Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all states."

“Every state must take steps to reduce drug-impaired driving, regardless of the legal status of marijuana,” Adkins said. “We encourage NHTSA to issue guidance on best practices to prevent marijuana-impaired driving.”

The report acknowledges that three other studies "differed somewhat in linking marijuana law changes to traffic fatalities," adds Ashley III.

One found that was there an increased marijuana presence in fatally injured drivers in only three of 14 states studied. Another focusing on Colorado said that marijuana-positive fatalities increased by about 4 percent. The third, in California, found no change after marijuana was decriminalized there in 2011.

Funding for the report was provided by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org).

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Published on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 in The Washington Post
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