Posts Tagged ‘National Highway Transportation Safety Administration NHTSA report drugs hallucinogens painkillers traffic crashes’

Drug use found in 33% of drivers killed

December 2, 2010

drug-test results National District Attorneys Association illegal substances cocaine Don Egdorf Houston Police Department DWI task force abuse prescription drugs David Strickland NHTSA Good2GoAccording to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released report, 1/3 of all drug tests on drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents came back positive for drugs ranging anywhere from hallucinogens to prescription painkillers last year.

The report, the agency’s first analysis of drug use in traffic crashes, showed a 5-percentage-point increase in the number of tested drivers found to have drugs in their systems since 2005. The increase coincided with more drivers being tested for drugs, the report shows.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the numbers are “alarmingly high” and called for more states to address the problem of driving and drug use. Seventeen states have some form of such laws, according to NHTSA: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Obviously more need them.

Although much research has been done on alcohol’s effects on driving, little has been done on the impact of drugs on driving, researchers say. The NHTSA analysis doesn’t address whether the drugs were at levels that would impair driving because right now there isn’t a standardized test. What they need is a system like Cleared2Drive, one that detects impairment not arbitrary levels in a person’s blood.

Jim Lavine, the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said drug-test results don’t always pinpoint when the person took the drug: It could have been days or weeks ago.  Again, another reason to focus solely on impairment detection.

The lack of research presents a problem for lawmakers, adds Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association. “With respect to illegal substances, the answer seems fairly easy: ‘You can’t drive with cocaine on board,’ ” he says. “The tougher question becomes, ‘What do you do with prescription drugs?’ ”

Don Egdorf of the Houston Police Department’s DWI task force says many people abuse prescription drugs. “If you have tooth pain, they give you Vicodin. You might develop a tolerance,” he said. “You might end up taking two instead of one.”

David Strickland of NHTSA recommends better state records of crashes involving prescription drugs.  While record keeping is important, shouldn’t our main focus be on prevention?

Cleared2Drive anyone?

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