A new study has found that drugs are behind fatal car crashes in recent years. The findings show that in 2016 at least 44 percent of drivers that were killed in car crashes were found to have drugs in their system, a number that has risen 28 percent more since the last decade.

Marijuana And Opioids Are Causing Fatalities

These new findings were reported by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The association represents state-highway offices and released this information on Thursday, May 31. The findings showed that the presence of marijuana, opioids, or both substances have been found in bodies of deceased drivers. Marijuana use has increased more in the past decade than opioid. 

In 2016, 20 percent of the drug-positive drivers tested positive for opioids as well and this was compared to the 17 percent that was discovered in 2006. In the same year, at least 41 percent of the fatally injured drivers tested positive for marijuana. In 2006, the number was 35 percent.

Despite these alarming new findings, traffic-safety consultant and former official with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Jim Hedlund, stated that there is no way to tell if the drugs impaired a person's vision or caused the crash. He continued that lab studies showed that marijuana and opioids can affect a person's depth perception, their reaction time, other important factors that relate to driving.

"Having these drugs in your body can't be a good thing and might be a bad thing," Hedlund stated.

Is More Research Needed?

The new report did stress there were some limitations on the data. In 2016, half of the drivers who were fatally injured from a car crash were not tested for drugs. The report also mentioned that the testing rates for deceased drivers in America varied.

However, this new report suggests new ways to help prevent these incidents from occurring.

Hedlund continued that there is no awareness given about the dangers of taking these substances and getting behind the wheel. Hedlun elaborated that the reason for the decrease in alcohol-related fatalities is that the Americans "understand" that drunk driving is bad.

Hedlund stated that the report focused more on marijuana because of the legalization of it in certain states, and on opioids because of the epidemic growing in the United States.

The report claims that the effect marijuana has on people can vary.

Hedlund urged that public awareness and joint efforts with pharmacists are needed to improve communication among drug makers and consumers. 

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