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Study indicates that over half of crash deaths involve drugs or alcohol

A new study used a federal agency's traffic fatality data to look at the relationship between alcohol or drug consumption and deadly crashes. The numbers are sobering: 57 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one substance at the time of death.

These results suggest that alcohol and drugs play a big role in fatal vehicle crashes. However, the study limited its conclusions to say only that substances were present in 57 percent of victims.

Researchers could only look at whether a victim had alcohol or drug indicators in his or her blood at the time of death. This constrained the research.

For example, the study could not determine the amount of a substance or how recently the driver consumed it. Marijuana can stay in the bloodstream for long periods of time so the mere presence of traces in the blood stream do not necessarily mean that the driver was high at the time of a crash.

The compiled data did reveal some trends. First, men are much more likely to have substance indicators at the time of death, with 60 percent of men testing positive compared with less than 50 percent of women. Second, alcohol was by far the most common substance. Marijuana and Adderall were close behind. Weekend and evening crash fatalities also showed much higher rates.

The researchers agreed that more study is needed to flesh out the details and implications of these numbers.

Source: CNBC, "Alcohol, drugs common in fatal crashes," Sept. 6, 2012

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