Drugs Most Likely to Cause Impaired Drivers to Crash

Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a danger to others. A new federal government report identifies the drugs, including alcohol, that pose the most risk for serious crashes by impaired drivers.

In December the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued the findings of its comprehensive review of the dangers of impaired driving (“Alcohol, Other Drug, and Multiple Drug Use Among Drivers”). Impaired drivers identified in the report include:

• Drunk drivers
• Drivers under the influence of illegal drugs
• Drivers using prescription or over-the-counter medications

The study found that alcohol was the most detected drug in drivers. Cannabis was the second most detected drug. Alcohol was mostly found alone, while cannabis was typically found with alcohol or other drugs in the system. Alcohol and cannabis was the most detected drug combination in drivers.

Prescription Drugs Found in Drivers Who Crashed

Other drugs that impair drivers listed in the crash-risk report included:

• Antidepressants
• Opioids
• Sleep aids
• Blood pressure medication
• Muscle relaxants

After alcohol and cannabis, sedatives and stimulants were the most common drug categories found in drivers.

The report concluded that, while alcohol increases the risk of crashing, alcohol combined with drug use increases that risk substantially. NTSB found that drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for alcohol and other drugs were 31 times more at risk for crashing than drivers who were drug and alcohol free.

And drivers who tested positive for multiple drugs, but not alcohol, were 18 times more likely to crash than drivers who were not under any impairment.
NTSB identified differences in drug use by sex. Male drivers more likely were found with illegal drugs in their systems. Women predominately tested positive for alcohol or prescription medications.

Commercial Truck Drivers Who Fail Drug Tests

The report did not separate passenger car drivers from commercial drivers, such as over-the-road truck drivers, but there is a gauge of potentially impaired truck drivers. The federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is a database of positive commercial truck driver tests for alcohol or drugs. Refused tests are included as well.

Monthly and year-to-date test results are available. The most recent monthly report is for November 2022. The Clearinghouse shows nearly 5,000 positive commercial truck driver drug tests in that month. For all of 2022 through November, there were almost 55,000 positive drug tests by commercial truck drivers.

The NTSB report recommends measures - including those related to law enforcement, government educational programs and product warnings - that may reduce the number of impaired drivers. But drivers who drink to excess, ignore over-the-counter medication warnings, or use illegal drugs and cause a catastrophic accident must be held accountable for their reckless actions.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a crash with an impaired driver, turn to a personal injury attorney to pursue just compensation from all responsible parties.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog February 20, 2023.


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