State-Specific Prevalence of Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults and Secondhand Smoke Rules and Policies in Homes and Workplaces --- United States, 2005
To measure the prevalence of alcohol and other drug use among persons killed in motor-vehicle crashes in West Virginia, CDC analyzed 2004 and 2005 data reported by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which determined that the prevalence of drug use was similar to the prevalence of a blood alcohol concentration among persons killed in motor-vehicle crashes. Created: 12/8/2006 by MMWR.
Date Released: 12/8/2006. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A Cup of Health with CDC
December 8, 2006
Alcohol and Drug Use Among Traffic Fatalities in West Virginia 2004-2005
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for
Disease Control and
Prevention. CDC – safer, healthier people.
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a
weekly broadcast of
the MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew
Every half hour someone is killed in a car crash involving a drinking driver.
over thirty percent of drivers killed in traffic crashes had blood alcohol levels
Drugs can impair our ability to drive. We’ve all heard of alcohol, marijuana,
cocaine contributing to crashes. Even common prescription drugs can affect our
ability to drive.
Researchers at CDC use law enforcement records to study how often people killed
in car crashes were using drugs or alcohol.
Here to discuss the effects of alcohol and drugs on driving is Dr. Len Paulozzi,
CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Dr. Paulozzi
is one of the
authors of a recent report on fatal crashes in West Virginia.
It’s great to have you on the program, Dr. Paulozzi.
[Dr. Paulozzi] Thank you, Matthew.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Paulozzi, how do alcohol and drugs
affect our ability to
[Dr. Paulozzi] Well, when you’ve been drinking or using
drugs, you are not as
coordinated as a driver and you don’t react as fast to hazards. Plus,
you may take
more risks than you would take if you were sober and make poor decisions. I
add that this doesn’t just apply to the drivers; it also applies to pedestrians
bicyclists who are using the roads and are impaired in the same way.
[Matthew Reynolds] How many crashes involve drivers who have
been drinking or
[Dr. Paulozzi] Well, there are thousands of them and it’s
really hard to know the
exact number. But we do know that in the United States in recent years it’s
39% of the fatal crashes that involve some alcohol. As far as drugs go, past
have shown that anywhere from five to 25% of drivers who are in crashes have
drugs in their systems.
[Matthew Reynolds] What is the typical profile of the person
who uses alcohol or
drugs and then gets behind the wheel?
[Dr. Paulozzi] We find both teenagers and people over the
age of 75 who have both
alcohol and drugs in their systems after crashes. But the highest usage of alcohol
seems to be among men who are 21 to 24 years old. Motorcycle drivers tend to
have greater levels of alcohol than passenger car drivers and men generally
higher levels of usage of alcohol than women do. For drugs, men have higher
of usage as well, but the rates vary with the age of the man involved. Younger
tend to have higher levels of the illicit drugs, like marijuana, whereas men
of age or older tend to be found more often with prescription medications.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well, let’s talk specifically about
alcohol related crashes. You’ve
just completed an in-depth study of fatal crashes in West Virginia. What did
[Dr. Paulozzi] Well, my co-authors in the Office of the Chief
Medical Examiner for
West Virginia and I looked at alcohol and drug test results in people dying
state in crashes in 2004 and 2005. With respect to alcohol, among the fatalities,
found that 32% of them had some alcohol in their blood after the crash. And
had a level of alcohol in their blood that was illegal to drive with, that is
alcohol concentration equal to or greater than .08. In general, men and younger
victims of these fatal crashes had more alcohol in their system and drivers
than passengers did.
[Matthew Reynolds] And what about drug related crashes?
[Dr. Paulozzi] Well, these results were more interesting
and more novel, really.
About 26% of the people dying had one kind of drug or another in their system
that percent is similar to the percent that had the illegal alcohol levels in
system. About 8% of these road victims had two or more different kinds of drugs
their blood at the time of the death. And for drugs, the highest rates, a prevalence
rate is what we call it, were in those 35 to 54 years of age.
[Matthew Reynolds] How has the picture changed for drug-impaired
driving in the
United States in recent years?
[Dr. Paulozzi] Well, we think that the picture may be changing
in the United States
with the increasing proportion of the drugs found in prescription drugs. Prescription
drugs now may be found more commonly than illegal drugs in people in some
locales. And this is a change from the 80s and early 1990s when marijuana might
have been the most commonly found drug.
[Matthew Reynolds] Why are we finding these kinds of drugs
now in fatal crashes?
[Dr. Paulozzi] Since the 1990s and on into this current decade
there’s been a
dramatic increase really in the use and the abuse of certain kinds of prescription
drugs. Included in this category are the painkillers and the drugs that are
[Matthew Reynolds] What would you recommend to people who
are taking these
drugs and how can they be safe on the road?
[Dr. Paulozzi] I think the first message should be, don’t
take illegal drugs or
prescription drugs recreationally. Second, heed the warnings from doctors and
pharmacists, and the warnings on the prescription bottles, about operating
machinery, including driving cars, when using certain medications. Be especially
careful when you first start taking some kinds of drugs or start taking an increased
dose, because you can be more impaired when your body has not gotten
accustomed to the medication. And finally, if you feel you are impaired, a designated
driver is always a good way to go.
[Matthew Reynolds] Thanks, Dr. Paulozzi, for taking the time
to talk with us today.
[Dr. Paulozzi] You’re welcome, my pleasure.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well, that’s it for this week’s
show. Don’t forget to join us next
week. Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with
[Announcer] To access the most accurate and relevant health
affects you, your family, and your community, please visit www.cdc.gov.