Study: Drivers killed in crashes more likely to be on drugs than alcohol

Study: Drivers killed in crashes more likely to be on drugs than alcohol
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Drivers who are killed in car crashes are now more likely to be on drugs than alcohol, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

In 2015, the most recent year for which national data were available, drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers who were involved in fatal crashes, compared to 37 percent of drivers who had above the legal limit of alcohol in their system.

Thirty-six percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had marijuana in their system, while 9 percent tested positive for amphetamines.

In 2005, only 28 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs after dying in a crash.

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“As drunk driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically and many of today's impaired drivers are combining two or more substances, which has a multiplicative effect on driver impairment," said Ralph. S. Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org.

The report, which was conducted in conjunction with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, comes as an increasing number of states have legalized recreational and medical marijuana.

Traffic fatalities are also on the rise, which has been attributed to an improved economy and more distracted and drugged driving.

There are several different state laws that govern drug use while driving. Zero tolerance policies prohibit driving with any amount of specified drugs in the system; Driving Under the Influence of Drugs laws make it illegal to drive while impaired by any drugs; and Per Se laws set limits on the amount of certain drugs allowed in the system.

But many officers are not trained to identify the signs and systems of drugged drivers, according to the GHSA report.

Safety advocates are calling for increased training for law enforcement officers to help them identify and arrest drugged drivers.

Responsibility.org is doling out $100,000 worth of grants to highway safety offices in Illinois, Montana, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin to help them implement Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training and Drug Recognition Expert programs.

"As states across the country continue to struggle with drug-impaired driving, it's critical that we help them understand the current landscape and provide examples of best practices so they can craft the most effective countermeasures," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of GHSA.