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Recently, the U.K. began to consider a law that would address drivers under the influence of drugs, and was looking at using a device that would act like a breathalyzer for narcotics instead of alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration might want to make the same recommendation after finding that while just 2.2% of drivers have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, a startling 16.3% of drivers were on some sort of narcotic.

Marijuana came in first among drug positives at 8.6%, with cocaine and over-the-counter meds following at 3.9% each. NHTSA plans further studies to find out how drugs affect driving impairment, since some narcotics aren't flushed from the body for weeks. If the research shows the effects are as bad as drunk driving, we can probably expect 'drugalyzers' to make an appearance at checkpoints soon.

You can read the full results of the study in the press release after the jump.

[Source: NHTSA | Photo credit: Web420.com]


New Roadside Survey Shows Steady Decline in Alcohol Levels, while Driver Drug Use is Detected

A new roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms a continuing decline in the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers

In 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In the latest survey, that figure had fallen to 2.2 percent. A BAC of .08 or higher is now above the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Previous roadside surveys conducted by NHTSA have measured only alcohol. But the 2007 survey used new screening techniques that detected other substances as well and in the future may help show the extent of drug impairment among drivers.

The survey found 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers were drug positive. The survey focused on weekend nighttime drivers and found that the drugs used most commonly by drivers were: marijuana (8.6 percent); cocaine (3.9 percent); and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9 percent).

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he is concerned about the prevalence of drivers who use drugs, and we should continue to fight against all impaired drivers.

"I'm pleased to see that our battle against drunk driving is succeeding," said Secretary LaHood. "However, alcohol still kills 13,000 people a year on our roads and we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent drunk driving."

"This troubling data shows us, for the first time, the scope of drugged driving in America, and reinforces the need to reduce drug abuse," said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Drugged driving, like drunk driving, is a matter of public safety and health. It puts us all at risk and must be prevented."

NHTSA is conducting further research to assess how drug traces correspond to driver impairment since some drugs can remain in the body for days or even weeks. Should further research indicate that drugs pose the same type of traffic safety risk as alcohol, NHTSA is committed to applying lessons learned in fighting the drunk driving problem.

Among the findings of the latest roadside survey are these:

• The percentage of male drivers with illegal BAC levels was 42 percent higher than the percentage of alcohol-impaired female drivers.

• Drivers were more likely to be illegally drunk during late nighttime hours (1 a.m. to 3 a.m.) than during daytime or early evening hours.

• Motorcycle riders were more than twice as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to be drunk (5.6 percent compared with 2.3 percent). Pickup truck drivers were the next most likely to have illegal BACs (3.3 percent).

The 2007 survey involved more than 300 roadside locations throughout the U.S. Click here to view the Research Note.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hey BoxerFanatic...I do drugs, but I agree with your point of view. Good call.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would rather people not drive while: drunk, stoned, talking on the phone, doing their nails, shaving, eating breakfast, cutting nose hairs, sleeping, over 100 years old.

      But it is going to keep happening. When will people realize driving on the roads really is a responsibility and not at all a right. Who owns public roads? Well technically we all do, as taxpayers, but it is the responsibility of the government to make sure we are using our responsibility as safely as possible.

      Look I'm not for all these checkpoints, police harassment etc. but if you are driving without all of your faculties, I and many other people want you off the road.

      If you put a gun to my head, yes I would rather have a stoned(Marijuana) driver than a drunk driver, but I have had friends who have crashed their cars while high and I have experienced first had what sort of impairments take place.

      If we don't take responsibility for our own actions, someone must step in to take over for us. Do you know who that is? The government.
      • 5 Years Ago
      great, another reason for the bored, local barney fife types to harrass those of us who work night shift. I once had a local cop pull me over on my way to work, and make a smart ass comment about how I was "a long way from home for that time of night." at the time I was working garveyard, 36 years old, and had been working for the same company, and driving through the same town for 12 years! nothing was wrong with my car, and I was not speeding, he was simply bored. I am not defending DUI or stoned driving, I have lost close friends to drunk drivers and detest impaired driving(especially the idiots who drive down the road talking on their cell phones or texting), but suggesting that stoned driving happens more at night is ludacris. there are just as many people getting waisted during the day, the higher numbers of cars on the road during the day simply dilute the numbers making it appear that the problem is worse at night! I have had way more close calls, accidents and near accidents with destracted drivers during the day, then drunk drivers at night! and that study is driving the same metropolitan area and freeways since 1989!
      • 5 Years Ago
      well , i'm wonder how well this study was done i read it the other day , the "stoned drivers" might not have been stoned at the time but they had the drug in there system when they were tested.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The last time I knew someone who did illegal drugs was the late '80s.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I challenge anyone on the internet to come up with a sizable list of accidents and fatalities that were caused solely by Marijuana! That same list with alcohol involved would stretch for miles... Let's face it-who drives safer, the sober guy doing 60 in a 35, or the guy who smoked a little and is doing 40 in 35, keeping his distances and generally driving well? I race often at a local track, consider myself to be a very good driver (experienced in all types of vehicles; can double-clutch, useful on a 1953 Allard, heel-toe, recover spins and rally) and would rather have a stoned driver on the road than a drunk one. I would rather have an objective impairment rating system for drivers, so that do matter what they choose to do, if they meet minimum standards for alertness, concentration, etc they are fine. I know alot of people that would fail that after driving 24 hours; they should be off the road anyway. If they continue this they'll have to start testing for drug after drug, and that will not work.
        • 5 Years Ago

        "... and would rather have a stoned driver on the road than a drunk one. "

        And I would rather have drunk drivers who know how to drive than 80% sober ones present on the U.S. roads at any given time of any day.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Drunk drivers blow through stop signs! Stoned driver stop at them and wait for them to turn green.

      True Story...

      Either way, don't drive stupid, drunk, stoned, distracted or tired. It's just not worth it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        mikeofla- thank you so much. that comment just made my day.

        similar to what redline said, tired drivers are just as bad. so are drivers who are eating while driving. so are drivers that are yelling at their kids in the backseat.
        point is, you can only make so many laws to keep people's attention on the road. that doesn't mean that people won't break them.

        and for the record, i too think that driving while high isn't nearly as bad as driving while drunk.
        • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ugh, here we go again. Articles like this tend to bring all the armchair pothead lobbyists out of the woodwork.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Heard this on the radio yesterday morning. Interesting...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Very interesting!

        Especially because I know very few people that take drugs. And I'd never have imagined that many people were on something, on or off the road!

        Interesting tid bit of info though. Here's a another one. 85% of ALL CRIME in the United States is drug related! A ---to--- Z

        Pretty Sad............. To think that someone takes a drug to escape from reality and it likely results in a crime which make their reality even worse! Woah....
        • 5 Years Ago
        In the USA it's WAY easier to consume drugs than alcohol. 16% of high drivers is alarming. The more people buying drugs, the higher the chance they will damage someone else. Besides, Mexico's huge drug problem could be alleviated if the US stopped consuming the product...

        If you can see the length of the chain here, you'll realize doing drugs damages way, way, waaaay more people than just youself.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Come on guys, we all know that the reduction in drunk driving is a direct result of MADDs actions against Flying Fish Brewery.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So is nobody going to point out that marijuana and cocaine aren't narcotics? The author of this post is saying that 16% of drivers are on something like heroin, which clearly isn't the case.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, and also about all the comments assuming all drugs "get you stoned". Not all drugs are depressants. Meth and cocaine make you more alert, though probably more prone to road rage.

        It's also scary how many people are for checkpoints and that they've got nothing to hide so why worry? I wouldn't leave the house if I had to inform the police of my plans and destination every time I went out, along with a breath, urine, DNA, and blood sample. I had bacon for breakfast, is that okay? Oh I'm not allowed any more this month? (reference to The Island)
      • 5 Years Ago
      While I agree driving high from marijuana does impair your ability to drive, I hope that they do not incur the same penalties from driving drunk. Someone driving high of course is less able to focus on the road, because they're baked. However, someone driving drunk could not even be conscious at all and that's the scariest thing. The high penalties for DUI are correct, I just hope that they don't lump all of it into the same category because they are completely different things.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Um, er, eh.... DUI.. Driving Under the INFLUENCE. Be it booze or dope it should be all the same. If you are not fit enough to drive, for whatever reason, you should get nailed.

        There was an incidence around here, where a diabetic who was in insulin shock killed someone. Is that 'under the influence', YES! How about someone who has been up for 24-30-36 hours or more. Influence, YES! Someone getting a BJ at the wheel, YES! Poping a few Vicodin to help your back pain... YYYEEESSS!!!!

        Alcohol is not the issue, drugs (illegal medicine, IMHO) are not the issue, medicine (legalized drugs, IMHO) is not the issue. It is the IMPEDIMENT to driving that is the issue.
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