DOT Studies Show Drunk Driving Down, Drugged Driving Upby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/13/2015
New studies from the Department of Transportation’s NHTSA reveal that while the nation is winning the fight against drunk driving, the number of highway drivers using marijuana and prescription drugs is on the rise. This is an obvious safety concern for truck drivers who spend most of their waking hours on the road and in the wake of all drivers.
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The 2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by a whopping three-quarters since the first survey in 1973.
However, the 2014 survey also found a significant increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs, with nearly one in four drivers testing positive for at least one drug that could affect their driving ability.
“America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference. At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind said.
The study was conducted in Virginia Beach and gathered data over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, as well as a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that drivers who had been drinking above the legal limit had about 4 times the risk of crashing as sober drivers and blood alcohol levels at 0.15 percent or higher had 12 times the risk. The second part of the study also found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk could partly be due to marijuana users being more likely in the higher risk demographics of crashes. For example, marijuana users are more likely to be young men, which is one group already at high risk.
For over 25 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has also been studying truck drivers’ use of various drugs as the ongoing research has indicated a serious concern about drug use of truck drivers being a major factor in truck accidents. While about 79% of the fatalities in truck accidents involve passenger vehicle drivers, but there is a much higher percentage of fatalities of truck drivers when drug usage is involved. In one recent study, 85% of surveyed truck drivers said that methamphetamines were easily available at truck stops. Methamphetamines are among the most prevalent drugs used by truck drivers as they allow them to stay awake longer and reach their destination that much sooner. The high instances of truck accidents occurring as a direct result of drug use by the truck drivers is what led to the Safety Board enforcing strict rules and guidelines for truck drivers and their employers such as mandatory routine drug testing.
In your experience as a truck driver, what poses a greater safety risk to you? Drinking and drug use of motorists or other truck drivers?