While Drunk Driving Decreases, Drugged Driving Continues to Rise

It’s a warning most adult drivers have engrained in the heads: “Don’t drink and drive.”

The nation’s decades-long campaign against drunk driving has proven effective in making roadways safer, but a new study finds that as drunken driving has decreases, drugged driving continues to increase. With the decriminalization of marijuana in some states, including in Massachusetts, and illicit drug use at an all-time high, drug-intoxication on roadways seems to be more prominent. This news has prompted safety watchdogs as well as lawmakers to raise new questions on how to make roadways safer. Groundbreaking new studies studies released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have broken down the data.

Published by the NHTSA, the Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers study uncovered the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since the first Roadside Survey was published back in 1973. And while these numbers reflect progress made combatting unsafe drivers, the same survey found a drastic increase in the number of drivers found using marijuana and illegal substances while driving. In a 2014, for example, nearly 25% of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect their ability to drive.

In a press statement, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said, “America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference. At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

In the last 4 decades, the National Roadside Survey, has been conducted 5 times. It’s completely voluntary, and an anonymous survey that gathers data in dozens of locations across the country from drivers who agree to participate. Drivers are alerted by multiple roadside signs that a voluntary survey site is ahead, and researchers gather data from those who volunteer. Drivers are notified that the survey is completely voluntary and that collected information is entirely anonymous. NHTSA has worked with research experts, law enforcement agencies and privacy advocates to refine procedures and address any potential concerns, according to the NHTSA press release.

The study shoes the prevalence has declined 30% since the last study in 2007 and 80% since the first study in the 1970’s. About 8 % of drivers during weekend nighttime hours, according to the latest research gathered, were found to have alcohol in their system, and just over 1 % were found with 0.08 percent or higher breath alcohol content. In contrast, the number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2014. The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew nearly two-fold.

In a second, separate survey, (the largest of its kind ever conducted), researchers assessed whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. Unsurprisingly, results showed marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men–a group already at high risk.

“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. “These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.” (NHTSA)


While the attorneys at Altman & Altman do not prosecute those who have caused an accident due to impaired driving, we do represent victims who have been injured as the result of another’s negligence. If you or a loved one were recently injured in a car accident, it is recommended you speak to a seasoned legal professional to discuss your rights as a victim. Your injuries may entitle you to collect compensation for missed work, medical expenses, property damage and pain and suffering.

With over 50 years of combined experience, our team at Altman & Altman has the resources to help assist you in finding you the right medical care and achieving the settlement you deserve. Call our office today to schedule an initial case evaluation. All consultations are completely free and confidential and our lawyers are available around the clock to assist you with all of your legal needs.

Read the full press release here.

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