Studies Note Increase in Drugged Driving

Recent studies point to an alarming new trend in fatalities related to DUI’s. Increasingly, drivers are getting into accidents not while under the influence of alcohol (or not alcohol alone), but instead, they are endangering the lives of those around them by driving while impaired by illegal or prescription drugs.

This revelation comes to taint the good news that over all, there has been a decrease in drunk driving.

“While the incidence of drunk driving violations has been on a decline, DUI while drugged is on the rise,” said Mary Rieser, the Executive Director of The Atlanta Recovery Center, Narconon Drug Rehab. "DUI while taking prescription meds or illegal drugs causes impaired judgment and decreased motor skills. Drug abuse and drug addiction cause untold misery in families, jobs, the court systems, and in the open road. Be careful."

In 2005, an estimated 14.1 percent of individuals over the age of twelve had driven while under the influence of either alcohol or an illicit drug. That number dropped in 2006, falling to 13.3 percent. This small improvement is colored by the fact that the 2006 estimate still puts the number of individuals driving while impaired at around 32.8 million a year.

More than 17,000 people were killed in alcohol related traffic accidents in 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Studies suggest that between 10 and 22 percent of the drivers involved in these crashes were also using drugs, generally in combination with alcohol.

An estimated 10.2 million, or 4.2 percent, individuals over the age of twelve reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the previous year in 2006 according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. At similar rate, 4.3 percent, was reported in 2005. This is a slight decrease from 2002, when 4.7 percent of individuals over twelve were estimated to have driven under the influence of drugs. While the decrease may be encouraging, less so is the age at where the rate is highest – among eighteen to twenty-five year olds.

A number of studies have explored the drugged driving phenomenon, and this is not the only one to connect it with a particular age group. In one study, an estimated 7.3 percent of individuals drove under the influence at age sixteen, a number which steadily rises to peak among young adults of twenty-two, whose rate was as high as 31.8 percent. That is not much short of one third of twenty-two year old drivers who report having driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A chilling statistic.

A study at a Maryland trauma center found that about 34 percent of patients admitted as the victims of motor vehicle crashes tested positive for tested positive for drugs only, while only 16 percent tested positive for alcohol alone. 9.9 percent, or essentially one in ten, tested positive for both. Among this group, some fifty percent were under the age of eighteen.

Driving under the influence of any substance, be it drugs or alcohol, is obviously a serious concern as it puts driver, passengers and those they share the road with all in danger. These substances affect reaction time and judgment, even in small doses. It is doubly concerning to see so many of the drivers who put themselves and those around them at risk are themselves young and inexperienced on the road.