Study: Drinking and driving declines as drugged driving increases

A recent survey indicates that drinking and driving may be declining, but drug use among drivers has significantly increased.

Drinking and driving causes a death every 53 minutes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol-related crashes account for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities in Tennessee and across the country.

Fortunately, a recent study indicates that alcohol use among drivers is declining. That same study indicates that drugged driving is actually increasing.

The research

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a survey to more than 9,000 people in the United States during 2013 and 2014. The anonymous process occurred at 300 checkpoints at which drivers were tested for alcohol and drug use.

The findings from the survey include the following:

  • Approximately 1.5 percent of drivers over the weekend had at or above a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration.
  • There was some amount of alcohol in 8.3 percent of drivers.
  • Of weekend nighttime drivers, 15.2 percent had illegal drugs in their system.
  • About 7.3 percent of weekend nighttime drivers had enough prescription or other medications in their systems to affect driving.

The majority of participants voluntarily provided researchers with saliva or a breath sample. Forty percent gave blood samples.

Then and now

This is the fifth drinking and driving survey the NHTSA has held since 1973. When comparing the numbers, 80 percent fewer drivers were at or above the legal drinking limit in 2013 and 2014 than in 1973. The number of drivers who had any alcohol in their systems also fell by an astounding 77 percent.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of drivers who are taking drugs. The NHTSA conducted a similar survey in 2007 regarding drugs and driving. This recent survey found that the number of nighttime weekend drivers with drugs in their systems rose from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2013 and 2014.

Further, researchers also tested for which types of drugs were prevalent. The greatest increase between the two surveys involved marijuana. In 2007, 8.6 percent of people tested positive for the substance, compared to 12.6 percent in the recent study.

Prevention efforts

While there is some good news here regarding drinking and driving, the fact remains that even one fatal accident is one too many. The CDC suggests the use of sobriety checkpoints, strict punishments and requiring substance abuse treatment for offenders would help prevent the problem.

In Tennessee, sobriety checkpoints are legal and, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, conducted once or twice a month. Under state law, even first-time offenders must participate in a substance abuse treatment program.

These measures are only part of what it takes to keep the roads safe. Anyone who has questions regarding this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Tennessee.