Report on incidence of drugs in road accident victims

In June 1997, the Department published preliminary results from the first 7 months of a new 3 year study into the incidence of drugs in road accident fatalities. At that time the Department committed itself to publishing a further report on the study  when at least 12 months data were available.

This report summarises the findings from the first 15 months of the study (up to 7 January 1998), and reports on the findings from 619 road user fatalities. As before, these include drivers, riders of two-wheeled vehicles (21 of them cyclists), passengers in vehicles and pedestrians.

Table 1 gives the percentage of those testing positive for medicinal and illicit drugs by road user groups. The figures for medicinal drugs include those cases where more than one such drug was found; those for illicit drugs are shown separately. This table is directly comparable to that published in the report issued in June 1997 (based on 301 fatalities).

The figures released on drugs and driving indicate that the scale of illicit drug use among people who have been killed in road accidents has increased considerably over the last decade. They show that among all road users, medicinal drugs were present in six per cent of fatalities. Illicit drugs (mainly cannabis) in 16 per cent, and alcohol in 34 per cent (23 per cent over 80 mg per 100ml) Among drivers alone four percent of those killed had taken medicinal drugs, 18 per cent illicit drugs and 30 per cent, (22 per cent over 80mg per 100 ml) alcohol. All these figures indicate a considerable increase in drug taking compared with the previous 1985-87 study.

Speaking at the PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety) conference, Keith Hellawell, the UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator said: “These figures do not allow simplistic conclusions but they do show that illicit drug use may be a significant factor on road fatalities. In my new role as UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator I am drawing up a strategy to deal with drugs and the harm they can cause. I look forward to working with colleagues in a wide range of agencies as we learn more about this problem.”

Interim results of survey, January 1998. Published DETR.

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