Study finds more drivers killed while under influence of drugs than alcohol

Fatal injuries due to drunk driving have decreased, while fatal injuries due to drug-impaired driving have increased.(STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

WASHINGTON D.C. – In a study released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, it was discovered that over 20 % of fatally injured motorists who were tested for drugs tested positive for marijuana in 2016, a figure that researchers say has “increased substantially” in recent years as states have legalized the drug for recreational or medicinal use.

That was one of several findings regarding the growing prevalence of drugs in vehicle fatalities. The report also found that 44 percent of drivers killed in automobile accidents in 2016 who were tested for drugs tested positive for one or more substances – that was up 28 percent from 10 years prior. That figure eclipsed the 37.9 percent of those who were known to have been tested for alcohol and tested positive – a figure that actually fell in the last decade, from 41 percent in 2006.

The author of the study, Jim Hedlund, say this recent report was intended to draw attention to the need to incorporate a drug message into programs that encourage motorists not to drive while impaired. It noted that marijuana was the most commonly found drug.

Hedlund, says “marijuana use has become more normalized” as states across the country decriminalize the drug.

“If use is up, use by drivers is up,” Hedlund says.

He attributes the decline in alcohol-related deaths to the “broad societal consensus” that drunk driving is wrong. There’s a “strong societal consensus. It’s [drunk driving] is bad,” he says. “Everyone knows it’s bad.” However, this way of thinking hasn’t caught up to drug-impaired driving yet. That’s where education comes in.