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How Common Is Drugged Driving?


From a recent USA Today article by Jonathan Shorman comes an astounding (to me) set of facts about drugs and driving that certainly ought to be considered as part of the conversation about decriminalizing marijuana:*

Researchers examined data on more than 44,000 drivers in single-vehicle crashes who died between 1999 and 2009. They found that 24.9% tested positive for drugs and 37% had blood-alcohol levels in excess of 0.08, the legal limit. Fifty-eight percent had no alcohol in their systems; 5% had less than 0.08. The data were from a government database on traffic fatalities.
Study co-authors Eduardo Romano** and Robert Voas of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Md., say their study is one of the first to show the prevalence of drug use among fatally injured drivers. Among drivers who tested positive for drugs, 22% were positive for marijuana, 22% for stimulants and 9% for narcotics.

The risks of drunk driving (and walking) are well-established; it is good (though wildly sobering) to see some hard data on drugged driving.
*Before you start stomping up and down about the relative driving risk of marijuana versus alcohol, do read the first few paragraphs of this post.
** One of Romano’s research areas — along with applied economics, epidemiology, traffic safety — is “Latino issues.” I’ve never seen that listed as an academic field; I wonder how many non-Latinos are in it?