In a press release issued on Feb. 6, 2015 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency says that as the nation continues to combat drunk driving, marijuana and prescription drug use rises sharply, causing the agency to question the safety of other substances.
The NHTSA’s 2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers found something positive: the number of drivers under the influence of alcohol has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by over three-quarters since 1973.
While drunk driving is steadily declining, the survey revealed that America has seen a huge increase in the number of drivers under the influence of marijuana and other controlled substances. According to the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect their ability to drive safely.
“The latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
Survey Shows that Alcohol Use Continues to Drop
The latest version of the survey, which has been conducted five times over the last four decades, shows that alcohol use among drivers continues to drop.
Around 8 percent of drivers during the weekend evening hours had alcohol in their system, and a little more than 1 percent had alcohol with .08% or higher in their system – the legal limit in each state. This figure is down by 30 percent from the 2007 survey, and down a whopping 80 percent from the first survey conducted in 1973.
As DUI rates continue to fall nationwide, the use of illegal and prescription drugs that affect driving safety continues to climb. The number of weekend nighttime drivers with some type of drug in their system rose from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014.
The NHTSA plans to continue investigating the dangers of drugged driving. In the works: the Washington State Roadside Survey, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse – both studies will assess how a person’s ability to drive is affected by controlled substances (drugs).