NHTSA notes Increase in number of US drivers using marijuana

Increase in number of US drivers using marijuana and illegal drugs

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An increase in the number of stoned drivers raises new safety questions as per studies released by Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The latest NHTSA Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers study reveals number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007. The 2014 survey also points to a large increase in drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. Almost one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug to compromise road safety.

NHTSA Marijuana using drivers
NHTSA reports on rise of drivers using marijuana and other illegal drugs

With drunk driving being a national issue, one-third reduction in alcohol use over seven years shows how a focused effort between concerned parties can make a difference says NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind. The recent Roadside Survey raises questions about drug use and highway safety. Use of marijuana and drugs needs to be addressed to save lives, and reduce crashes.

NHTSA National Roadside Survey conducted five times in the last 40 years is a voluntary, anonymous survey for data collection from drivers who choose to participate. Prevalence of drunk driving continues to drop. About 8 pct of drivers during weekend nighttime hours had alcohol in their system. Only over 1 pct had 0.08 pct or higher breath alcohol content (legal limit).The findings are about 30 pct lower from the previous survey in 2007. Weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drug use grew from 16.3 pct in 2007 to 20 pct in 2014. Drivers having used marijuana grew by about 50 pct.

Another NHTSA survey, assessed if marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. Other studies that use driving simulators and test tracks found that marijuana based on dosage level will affect driver risk. Jeff Michael, NHTSA associate administrator for research and program development reiterates that drivers should not get behind the wheel impaired. Marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness. Data was gathered over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers involved in crashes, and a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. Additional studies planned include a Washington State Roadside Survey to assess risk in a state where marijuana is legalised, and a simulator study with National Institute on Drug Abuse to assess how drivers under the influence of drugs behave behind the wheel.