New Study: Fewer Drunk, More Drugged Drivers

A federal agency credits the decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving for the drop in alcohol-impaired drivers. But the question remains: What’s causing the increase in drugged drivers?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s latest National Roadside Survey shows declines in drunk driving, but an increase in use of marijuana and prescription drugs on the nation’s roadways.

The survey found the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007 and by more than three-quarters since 1973.

However, the same study found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. Nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

Some other findings:

  • About 1.5% of weekend nighttime drivers had breath alcohol concentrations at or above the .08 legal limit; this decreased by 80% since 1973.
  • 3% had any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems; this number dropped 77% since 1973.
  • The proportion of nighttime weekend drivers with illegal drugs in their systems was 15.2% in the current survey. That’s up from 12% in 2007.
  • The percentage of total drug-positive nighttime weekend drivers increased from 16.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2013/14.
  • The drug showing the greatest increase from 2007 to 2013/14 was marijuana, from 8.6% in 2007 to 12.6% in 2013/14. That’s a proportional increase of 47%.


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