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THURSDAY, April 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- In vehicle crashes that claim American lives, illicit drugs are now more likely to have played a role than the use of alcohol on its own, a new report says.
The trend comes as more states legalize marijuana and the nation faces a troubling rise in opioid abuse and drug overdose deaths, the researchers noted.
In 2015, drugs were detected in 43 percent of drivers who suffered fatal injuries, a higher percentage than cases involving alcohol alone, the report found.
The report was by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org).
"As drunk driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically. And many of today's impaired drivers are combining two or more substances, which has a multiplicative effect on driver impairment," Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org., said in a GHSA news release.
According to Jonathan Adkins, executive director of GHSA, "As states across the country continue to struggle with drug-impaired driving, it's critical that we help them understand the current landscape and provide examples of best practices so they can craft the most effective countermeasures."
The new report recommends more training to help police identify and arrest drugged drivers. Responsibility.org is offering grants this year to five states -- Illinois, Montana, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- for this training.
The report also calls for states to create task forces to develop action plans. In California, for example, a committee is already at work on a blueprint to guide the state's efforts to fight drug-impaired driving. Its plan is expected by year's end.
Accurate and timely collection of data is also essential, according to the report. In response, New York has begun using tablet computers to allow law enforcement officers on the scene to transfer investigation data to a centralized system.
Report author Jim Hedlund stressed that "drugged driving is a complicated issue." He is a former senior U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official.
"The more we can synthesize the latest research and share what's going on around the country to address drug-impaired driving, the better positioned states will be to prevent it," Hedlund said in the news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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