Pot detected in drivers in fatal US crashes triples in decade

NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Investigators found marijuana detected in drivers involved in fatal U.S. accidents rose from 4.2 percent to 12.2 percent from 1999 to 2010, researchers say.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, also found the prevalence of non-alcohol drugs detected in drivers in fatal crashes rose from 16.6 percent in 1999 to 28.3 percent in 2010.

Dr. Guohua Li, a professor and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, said the study was study was based on data from California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia — states that routinely performed toxicological testing on drivers involved in fatal car crashes.

Li and colleagues examined toxicological testing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and found of the 23,591 drivers who were killed within 1 hour of a crash, 39.7 percent tested positive for alcohol and 24.8 percent for other drugs.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, also showed alcohol involvement was more prevalent in men at 43.6 percent than in women at 26.1 percent, but trends were stable for both sexes. In contrast, the substantial increase in the prevalence of marijuana was reported for all age groups and both sexes, Li said.

“It is important to interpret the prevalence of non-alcohol drugs reported in this study as an indicator of drug use but not necessarily as a measurement of drug impairment,” Li said in a statement.

“To control the ongoing epidemic of drugged driving, it is imperative to strengthen and expand drug testing and intervention programs for drivers.”