Jefferson County Sheriff Deputy Kevin Schwindt tests a driver, whose face is illuminated by police vehicle lights, to see if he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, at a mobile Driving Under the Influence (DUI) checkpoint in Golden, Colorado, U.S. on April 12, 2008.
Traffic fatalities are also on the rise, which has been attributed to an improved economy and more distracted and drugged driving.
Safety advocates are calling for increased training for law enforcement officers to help them identify and arrest drugged drivers.
Drivers killed in fatal auto crashes are now more likely to be on drugs than drunk, according to a report published Wednesday, prompting its authors to demand lawmakers "do something" about the uptick of drug-related casualties.
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Forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, eclipsing the 37 percent who tested above the legal limit for alcohol, according to a report released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. "Drug impairment has different signs and symptoms - think of the difference between uppers and downers". That could created a sampling error if those tested were more likely than other fatalities to have drugs present in their system. According to the report, marijuana can increase the risk of crashing by 22 to 36 percent.
Investigators checked for alcohol at a somewhat higher rate, testing 71 percent of killed motorists. "The relationship between alcohol and crash risk has been known for 40 years". Pennsylvania recently tested all DUI blood samples and found 50 percent also contained drugs, he said, and drugged driving was a primary topic at the annual Pennsylvania Highway Safety Conference in State College recently.
Roadside screenings for drugs that use saliva are being tested, and tests that use breath are being developed, Hedlund said. "The more we can synthesize the latest research and share what's going on around the country to address drug-impaired driving, the better positioned states will be to prevent it".
"If you are using a substance that might impair you, you shouldn't drive", Hedlund said.