NHTSA: More than half of crash victims positive for drugs, alcohol

December 22, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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More than half of those injured or killed on the nation’s roadways tested positive for one or more drugs, including alcohol, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study.

A recently published study by NHTSA reveals that nearly 56% of the injured or killed roadway users tested positive for one or more drugs (including alcohol) on the study’s toxicology panel. The report did not break down results by vehicle type.

Drug positivity rates were highest among those conducted by a medical examiner (more than two-thirds) compared to trauma center cases (54.2%).

The most prevalent drug category among all road users in the study sample was cannabinoids (active THC) with 25.1% positive, followed by alcohol at 23.1%, stimulants at 10.8%, and opioids at 9.3%. Approximately 20% of the road users tested positive for two or more categories of drugs.

Among injured drivers, 25% tested positive for cannabinoids, 21.6% for alcohol and 9.8% for stimulants.

More than 18% tested positive for two or more drugs. More than 54% of injured drivers tested positive for at least one category of drug.

The numbers are different for drivers killed on the roadways. Among those tested by a medical examiner, nearly 40% tested positive for alcohol, followed by cannabinoids at 31.7% and opioids at 13%. Nearly 34% of drivers killed tested positive for two or more drugs, including alcohol. Overall, nearly 69% of all drivers killed tested positive for at least one category of drug.

Accounting for all roadway users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, nearly 56% tested positive for any drug. Among those injured, more than 54% tested positive for any drug. Nearly 68% of those killed tested positive for any drug. Of all roadway users killed in the study, alcohol was the most prevalent drug (35.8%), followed by cannabinoids (28%) and opioids (15.3%).

Drug use among drivers killed was higher with men. Nearly 71% of men killed tested positive for any drug, compared with 60% of women.

The results also reveal that positive tests among those killed were most prevalent at night and on the weekends compared to during the day and weekdays.

“Making a plan for a safe, sober ride home is critical to saving lives this holiday season,” NHTSA acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a statement. “I urge everyone to do their part to end these preventable tragedies by always driving sober, designating a sober driver, using public transportation or calling a taxi or ride-hailing service.” LL

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.