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NTSB: Alcohol, Cannabis Primary Substances Found in Impaired Drivers

Cannabis is the second most common.

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A new report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says federal and state agencies need to take action to address the continuing problem of impaired driving, including from alcohol, cannabis and multiple drug use.

The NTSB examined the crash risk associated with different drugs — including alcohol, cannabis, prescription, over-the-counter and other drugs — and the prevalence of their use among drivers. The report also makes recommendations aimed at preventing crashes caused by impaired drivers.

Alcohol remains the most often detected drug in impaired driving incidents and cannabis is the second most common. They also found that while alcohol is most often detected alone, cannabis was most often detected in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

In the report, the NTSB recommends: 

  • ​A requirement that cannabis products have a warning label about driving impairment.
  • Enhancements to state drug-impaired driving laws.
  • Standardization of toxicology testing for the detection of drug use
  • Research on how to improve compliance with driving-related warnings on potentially impairing prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The report also says current testing practices and protocols need to be improved to both better detect a driver’s drug use and accurately report the prevalence of drug-impaired driving.

For example, many jurisdictions halt testing when a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is over a certain threshold, losing valuable information on other drugs the driver may have used.

Additionally, a lack of standardized drug testing and reporting hinders understanding of the issue and the development of policies that can reduce impaired driving, as well as treatment options for those with substance abuse disorders.

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