New D.U.I. Profile: Are You Driving Drugged?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

New D.U.I. Profile: Are You Driving Drugged?

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Over time, the drugs that people abuse have changed and evolved. Naturally, the profile of an impaired or “drugged” driver has also changed.

A new study released in the June 23 edition of Public Health Reports took a detailed look at drivers who tested positive for drugs after being involved in fatal car crashes between 1993 and 2010.

What they found was representative of a shift in commonly abused drugs, especially among drivers who test positive for multiple substances.

Changing Trends

While the term “driving under the influence” used to be defined as someone who operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated on alcohol, that description no longer applies in today’s society. Mind-altering substances have expanded and changed over the years, creating a whole new generation of drugged drivers.

According to study author Fernando Wilson, Ph.D., motor vehicle fatalities are no longer dominated by drivers under the influence of alcohol. Instead, the nature of the driver’s intoxication is changing. The study, which was funded by the Public Health Law Research program, was set up to investigate state laws and the role drugs played in fatal car crashes.

When looking at trends among U.S. drivers involved in fatal car crashes that tested positive for drugs between the years of 1993 and 2010, the researchers found some rather startling data. For example, the number of drugged drivers who tested positive for three or more drugs nearly doubled in the seven year timeframe, going from just 11.5 percent to 21.5 percent.

Back in 1993, one out of every eight drivers was abusing multiple drugs. Fast-forward to 2010; that number jumped to one in five drivers. What’s more, authorities are frequently seeing drivers who are abusing drugs and alcohol together. Researchers discovered around 70 percent of drivers who tested positive for cocaine also tested positive for alcohol, while 55 percent tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol.

70 percent of drivers who tested positive for cocaine also tested positive for alcohol… 55 percent tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol.

Additional study findings include:

  • 60 percent of the drivers who tested positive for cannabis-only were under the age of 30.
  • Thirty-nine percent of prescription drug users were 50 years old or older, indicating that larger numbers of older adults abuse prescription drugs.
  • The trend is likely to continue, given the aging population, their increasing reliance on prescription medications and the legalization of marijuana.
  • Researchers were unsure whether state policies could adequately address the challenges of drugged driving.

Tackling the Challenges of Drugged Driving

As it stands now, 18 states have a zero-tolerance policy for drivers found to be under the influence. Unfortunately, these laws are not enough to deter impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel of an automobile.

The study’s authors suggest we need a new set of preventative measures to be effective. A few of those include:

  • Getting Doctors Involved: Physicians having open and honest conversations with patients that are prescribed narcotic medications. Doctors are encouraged to explain how medications affect the senses and reaction times, posing dangers while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Alternatives to Driving Drugged: Making mass transit more affordable and accessible is also a smart way to keep intoxicated drivers off the road. When people are presented with viable transportation options, they are less likely to get behind the wheel of a car.


If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, take action and learn about drug addiction treatment options to fit your needs. Call 1-888-366-3510 and speak with a helpful recovery professional today.

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