Drugged Driving Becoming More Prevalent than Drunk Driving in Fatal Crashes

For the first time ever, more fatal crashes are involving drugs than alcohol

A recent report issued by Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol responsibility shows that drivers killed in car crashes are statistically more likely to be on drugs than above the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level. In 2015, 43% of drivers tested in fatal crashes were under the influence of drugs, either legal or illegal. This exceeds the 37% of drivers tested in fatal crashes who were above the legal blood alcohol content level. The statistics are surprising and many are speculating as to what could have caused the change in numbers as this is the first time ever that drug use was found to be involved in more fatal crashes than drunk driving.

Some are pointing to the increasingly permissive laws pertaining to marijuana. In 2005, 28% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs. In 2015, that number rose to 43%. In those 10 years, there were major efforts to expand permissive marijuana use throughout the United States. Now:

  • 29 states allow medical marijuana use;
  • 21 states have decriminalized marijuana use; and
  • 8 states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana use.

While European studies have shown marijuana use to negligently increase the risk of a car crash, other statistics show conclusions to the contrary. After legalizing recreational marijuana use, Colorado experienced a 48% increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities.

Despite the more permissive marijuana laws sweeping the country, it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in any state. However, there are unique challenges that law enforcement officials are facing in trying to enforce the ban on driving under the influence of drugs. For example, a person’s BAC can easily be found at the scene of a car crash. Testing for drug use is more difficult and usually involves a blood test. By the time a person is taken to go get the blood test, the drug may have already metabolized. This will skew the results so that they do not really reflect the drug level the individual had at the time of the crash.