Fatal crashes from drivers testing positive for drugs in the U.S., 1993-2010

Fernando A. Wilson, Jim P. Stimpson, José A. Pagán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Illegal drug use is a persistent problem, prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and there is clinical evidence that drug use reduces driving performance. This study describes trends in characteristics of drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes who test positive for drugs. Methods. We used the Fatality Analysis Reporting System-a census of motor vehicle crashes resulting in at least one fatality on U.S. public roads-to investigate suspected drug use for the period 1993-2010. Results. Drugged drivers who were tested for drug use accounted for 11.4% of all drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2010. Drugged drivers are increasingly likely to be older drivers, and the percentage using multiple drugs increased from 32.6% in 1993 to 45.8% in 2010. About half (52.4%) of all drugged drivers used alcohol, but nearly three-quarters of drivers testing positive for cocaine also used alcohol. Prescription drugs accounted for the highest fraction of drugs used by drugged drivers in fatal crashes in 2010 (46.5%), with much of the increase in prevalence occurring since the mid-2000s. Conclusions. The profile of a drugged driver has changed substantially over time. An increasing share of these drivers is now testing positive for prescription drugs, cannabis, and multiple drugs. These findings have implications for developing interventions to address the changing nature of drug use among drivers in the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-350
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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