Dangers of drugged driving
Warnings against driving drunk have been loud and clear. Non-profit organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), make it their mission to encourage designating a sober driver and educate people about the risks of drunk driving. MADD reported that in 2011, 9,878 people were killed in incidents involving alcohol. The attention drunk driving gets is well deserved.
But what about drugged driving?
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health recognized that the role of drugs in fatal car crashes has not been adequately studied. So they analyzed U.S. government data on fatal crashes in 2007. They then compared that data with roadside surveys of alcohol and drug use by drivers during that same time period. The results are published in the journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention.
The researchers discovered that drivers who tested positive for drugs were three times more likely to be involved in a lethal crash than those who tested negative for drugs. Depressants carried the highest risk of a fatal crash, followed by stimulants, narcotics and marijuana.
Additionally, the researchers found that the combination of drugs and alcohol caused an even greater threat. The combination of the substances made the risk of being in a fatal crash 23 times higher than those who tested negative for the substances.
“Drunk driving is top of mind with many people,” says Dr. Stephen Crouch, medical director and chair of the emergency department at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. “This study statistically shows that drugged driving should also be top of mind.”
Dr. Crouch adds, “It’s also interesting that the researchers quantified how deadly the combination of drugs and alcohol can be. Twenty three times the risk to be in a fatal car crash is a shocking figure. The study is a good reminder to play it safe. Either designate a driver or avoid non-prescription substances all together, especially if you are going to be operating a vehicle.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.