A study published in this month's issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has found a strong link between illegal drug use and fatal car accidents across the country. According to the researchers at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation just under 25 percent of all drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents tested positive for an illegal substance after the crash.
The researchers examined ten years' worth of traffic accident data collected from the 20 states that require a drug test after a serious car collision. The study included a total of 44,000 accidents. The researchers found that almost one-quarter of drivers involved in crashes had marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or some combination of the drugs in their system.
The researchers also found that some illegal drugs were associated with more serious accidents and reckless behaviors than other drugs. Drivers who use "Uppers" such as cocaine, methamphetamines, and speed, were more likely to engage in reckless driving behaviors including speeding, distracted driving, failure to follow the rules of the road, and lack of seat belt use. But, marijuana use was only correlated with speeding accidents and a lack of seat belt use.
In an earlier study on driver drug use researchers found that about 14 percent of all drivers on the road have an illegal drug in their system, but the authors of this study do not want to jump to conclusions about the causes of accidents. While there is a certain correlation between illegal drug use and fatal car accidents, a correlation is not a causation. Drug use may impair drivers and cause crashes, it is just as likely that drivers who use drugs are likely to drive recklessly, or that the drivers use drugs, drink and drive at the same time.
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