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Study: Alcohol-Positive Drivers Possess Greater Fatal Crash Risk Compared To Non-Alcohol Drug-Positive Drivers

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Study: Alcohol-Positive Drivers Possess Greater Fatal Crash Risk Compared To Non-Alcohol Drug-Positive Drivers

Calverton, MD: Drivers with blood alcohol limits of 0.05 percent possess a greater risk of being in a fatal traffic accident than do drivers who test positive for any other licit or illicit substance, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Drugs and Alcohol.

Investigators at the Pacific Research Institute in Maryland and the University of Puerto Rico assessed the relative risk of fatal crash involvement associated with the presence of alcohol, licit drugs (e.g., methadone, opiates, benzodiazepines, sleep aids) and illicit drugs (marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines), as well as a combination of both drugs and alcohol.

They reported: "[O]ur finding that the risk of involvement in a fatal crash at a BAC of .05 percent is significantly higher than that for being positive for drugs other than alcohol."

Authors also reported that the presence of marijuana alone was not a significant contributor to fatal accident risk. They stated: "Although drugs other than alcohol do contribute to crash risk, we found that such a contribution depends on the type of drug under consideration. Somewhat unexpected was the finding that although marijuana's crude OR (odds ratios) indicated a significant contribution to fatal crash risk, once it was adjusted by the presence of alcohol and drivers' demographics, marijuana's OR was no longer significant among either sober or drinking drivers."

Investigators concluded: "Alcohol was not only found to be an important contributor to fatal crash risk, ... it was associated with fatal crash risk levels significantly higher than those for other drugs. ... The much higher crash risk of alcohol compared with that of other drugs suggests that in times of limited resources, efforts to curb drugged driving should not reduce our efforts to pass and implement effective alcohol-related laws and policies."

A separate paper published recently in the journal Injury Prevention reported that drivers with a BAC of 0.01 percent are "46 percent more likely to be officially blamed for a crash than are the sober drivers they collide with." They concluded, "There appears to be no safe combination of drinking and driving."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Drugs and alcohol: Their relative crash risk," is available from the Journal of Studies on Drugs and Alcohol. NORML's white paper, "Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review," is available online at: http://norml.org/library/item/cannabis-and-driving-a-scientific-and-rational-review.