Alcohol, Drugs Involved in Most Car Fatalities

By Chrisanne Grise 09/10/12

More than half of drivers killed in US accidents have alcohol or drugs in their system, according to a new study.

Alcohol was most commonly found in toxicology
screens after the accidents.
Photo via

More than half of the drivers killed in car accidents in the US have alcohol or drugs in their system when they crash, and about one in five have been using two or more drugs, according to a new study published in the Addiction journal. Researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on 20,150 drivers killed accidents from 2005-2009, finding that men and night-time drivers were the most likely to have booze or drugs show up in toxicology tests afterwards: 60% of men killed were under the influence, compared with under 50% of the women. Alcohol was found most often, followed by marijuana and stimulants. However, the records didn't have enough data to tell to what extent the drivers were actually impaired, or the extent to which prescription drugs were to blame, so more research will be needed. "With alcohol, the amount of alcohol is more or less directly related to the level of behavior impairment,” says Robert Voas, who studies alcohol and highway safety at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, but wasn't part of the study. “The relationship of a drug in the body to the behavior of the driver is less direct and clear." 

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.