The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) updated its 2017 drugged driving report that has garnered an immense amount of press.
Many in the media understood the report to say that drugged driving has surpassed drunk driving, although that was not the report’s conclusion. Data were reported based upon NHTSA’s FARS reports which in turn are primarily based on coroner’s testing of drug and alcohol content of drivers killed in fatal crashes. The GHSA report compared alcohol presence with drug presence, making no impairment inferences for either. Based on presence information alone, drugged driving is now more prevalent than alcohol driving.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others have criticized the report since drug presence does not necessarily mean the drivers were impaired by drugs, which is a correct statement. But the FARS data are used routinely by many, including MADD, since no other data are available yet.
But more importantly, there should be no argument as to which is more deadly – alcohol or drugs. Because of the high prevalence of DUI cases involving alcohol combined with drugs, it may be impossible to prove which is more deadly. But more importantly, this really isn’t a contest. Both are problematic and must be addressed together.
We made this point in a letter to the editor published by Vermont’s Bennington Banner on May 5th, 2017.