Involvement of drugs in accident causation

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Responsibility analysis has been used to assess the contribution of drugs in traffic accidents involving fatally injured drivers in Australia in 1995 and 1996. These results have been compared with those of a similar study conducted in drivers killed from 1990-1993. The prevalence of drugs in drivers killed in 1995-1996 averaged at 27%, an increase of 5% from 1990-93. The prevalence in individual states across Australia ranged from 11 to over 41%. The most prevalent drug was cannabis, which increased in prevalence from 11% to 13% in this period. There were lesser changes for the other major drug groups: opioids, benzodiazepines and amphetamine-like stimulants. The incidence of alcohol (BAC ≥ 0.01%) averaged 32% in 1995 - 96 cases, a decrease of 4% from 1990-1993. Risk analysis showed no significant increase in risk for drivers positive for cannabis and opioids alone, but when combined with other psychoactive drugs, a significant increase in risk occurs (3.5-fold). Drivers positive for alcohol over 0.05% gave an increase in risk of 9-fold over drug-free drivers. Users of amphetamines and related stimulants and benzodiazepines show a trend to a higher risk, but this was not significant. Of interest was the significant increase in risk for users of psychotropic drugs (Odds Ratio = 3.4). THC positive culpable drivers had an average blood concentration of 15 ng/ml compared to 3.5 ng/ml in non-culpable drivers. These data suggest that campaigns to reduce drug use are best targeted to users of drivers likely to drive shortly after consuming cannabis, using non-prescribed doses of drugs, those who mix psychoactive drugs, and those combining drugs with alcohol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalZ Zagadnien Nauk Sadowych
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


  • Drugs and driving
  • DUI
  • Post-mortem material

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