Washington, D.C. – Drug involvement is increasing in drivers involved in fatal crashes in the U.S., according to a new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Post-mortem testing showed an increase in the level of drug involvement, both of legal and illegal drugs, among fatally-injured drivers from 2005 to 2009.

Drug involvement does not mean the driver was impaired or that drug use was the cause of the crash, the agency noted.

According to the data, 63 per cent of the 21,798 drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 were tested for drugs. Of these, 3,952 tested positive for drug involvement, representing 18 per cent of the total for that use. The report also showed drug use reported by the states among fatally-injured drivers increasing from 13 per cent in 2005, to 15 per cent in 2006, to 16 per cent in 2007, and to 18 per cent in 2008.

The types of drugs recorded in the study included narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, phencyclidines (PCPs), anabolic steroids and inhalants. The groups included illicit drugs, legally-prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medicines.

“Every driver on the road has a personal responsibility to operate his or her vehicle with full and uncompromised attention to the driving task,” said NHTSA administrator David Strickland. “Today’s report provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs, not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at risk.”

NHTSA said it will continue to conduct research to better understand the correlation between drug levels and their effect on crashes.

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