Illegal drugs, as well as some over-the-counter and prescribed medications, have a variety of very serious, negative effects on driving. Use this page to access research on the impact of drugs on driving, the extent of the problem, and recommendations to tackle the issue.

Cannabinoid Concentrations Detected in Fatal Road Traffic Collision Victims Compared with a Population of Other Post Mortem Cases
Imperial College London, 03/08/15

Cannabis was found in more people killed in road crashes than alcohol above the legal limit.

FOI request lifts lid on extent of drug drive arrests
IAM, 12/06/15

More than 900 arrests were made in England and Wales in the first two months following new drug drive legislation.

Roadside drug tests reveal high number of drivers test positive
BBC, 27/05/15

Half of drivers pulled over in some areas tested positive for drugs following the introduction of roadside testing in England and Wales.

The combined effects of alcohol and cannabis on driving: Impact on crash risk
Centre for Research on Safe Driving, Canada, 24/12/14

Combining alcohol and cannabis results in a greater driver impairment than either substance alone.

Impact of age at onset of cannabis use on cannabis dependence and driving under the influence in the United States
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, 24/12/14

One in 20 (5%) people who have ever taken cannabis have driven while under its influence.

Driving under the influence of opioids among high school students in Atlantic Canada: Prevalence, correlates, and the role of medical versus recreational consumption
Dalhousie University, Canada, 06/12/14

Young drivers using opioids recreationally are more likely to drive dangerously than those using the same drugs for medical reasons.

Road safety monitor 2013: drugs and driving
Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 30/09/14

5.6% of Canadian drivers admit driving within two hours of taking illicit drugs or medicines that can impair driving.

New figures reveal road deaths from illicit drugs
Transport for NSW, 12/08/14

11% of road deaths between 2010 and 2013 in New South Wales, Australia, involved a driver or motorcyclist with illegal drugs in their bodies.

Public urged to speak out to stop the UK’s million drug drivers
Brake and Direct Line, 05/08/14

3% of UK drivers admit driving on illegal drugs in the past year, and 11% think they have been a passenger with a drug driver.

Drivers clueless about dangers of over-the-counter drugs
Brake and Direct Line, 25/06/14

One in six (17%) UK drivers either ignore medication label warnings not to drive or don’t check the label at all.

New Zealanders attitudes towards drug-driving and suggested countermeasures
New Zealand Transport Agency, 24/06/14

Illegal drug users in New Zealand say they would be deterred from drug driving by random roadside testing, and automatic vehicle impoundment if caught.

Brake calls for zero-tolerance on at-work drink- and drug-drivers
Brake and Licence Bureau, 06/05/14

Fewer than half (47%) of employers with staff who drive for work educate drivers on the risks of drug-driving.

Trends in drug use among drivers killed in U.S. traffic crashes, 1999–2010
West Virginia University, 03/05/14

The proportion of US drivers killed in crashes with illegal or prescription drugs in their bodies was 49% higher in 2009-10 than in 1999-2000.

The perceived effects of cocaine on the driving performance of long-term users
Bielefeld University, 26/03/14

Long-term cocaine users are more concerned about the risk of losing their licence for driving on drugs than the danger involved.

Culpability of drivers killed in New Zealand road crashes and use of alcohol and other drugs
New Zealand Environmental Science and Research, 02/03/14

Drivers who have taken psychoactive drugs are more than three times as likely to be at fault in fatal collisions as sober drivers.

Cannabis and traffic collision risk
University of Toronto, 30/09/13

Using cannabis increases driver crash risk four fold, according to analysis of road crash hospital admissions in Canada.

Drug use and fatal motor vehicle crashes
Columbia University, 08/09/13

Drivers who have consumed both drugs and alcohol are more than 23 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers.

Recommendations to tackle drug driving in the UK
UK expert panel on drug driving, 08/03/13

The UK expert panel on drug driving has recommended drug drive limits, blood testing as soon as possible after every crash and drug driving public awareness campaigns.

Smoking cannabis impairs the ability to concentrate and focus attention on driving tasks
Swiss National Scientific Research Foundation, 02/01/13

Smoking cannabis impairs the ability to concentrate and focus attention on specific tasks required for safe driving.

Self-reported drink and drug driving: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales
Crime Survey for England and Wales, 02/10/12

Drug users are more than twice as likely to drive under the influence than drinkers.

Drug use in driver fatalities
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 03/09/12

Evidence of drug use was found in 18% of all driver deaths in the US in 2009.

First clinical test for drug driving hits the road
University of Sydney, 08/08/12

Methamphetamine use makes drivers more likely to speed and reduces lane discipline.

Medications and driving: community knowledge, perceptions and experience
Queensland University of Technology, 25/07/12

24% of Australian drivers admit to driving when taking medication that can cause impairment.

Young drug-drivers 'on the rise'
RAC, 20/06/12

Drug driving among 17 to 24 year olds in the UK has risen from 5% to 9% in 2011.

Smoking cannabis within three hours of driving doubles crash risk
University of Queensland, 24/02/12

Drivers who smoke cannabis within three hours of getting behind the wheel double their risk of a serious crash.

Drugs related to motor vehicle crashes in northern European countries
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 01/05/11

Two-thirds (66%) of all drivers under 30 years old who died in single vehicle crashes in five Nordic countries had used alcohol or drugs.

Drug and Alcohol Involvement in Four Types of Fatal Crashes
The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 12/04/11

Drugs are present in one in four drivers who die in single vehicle crashes in the United States.

Deterring drug drivers: a study into the initial impact of oral random roadside drug tests
Queensland University of Technology, 28/02/11

Drug drivers cite poor enforcement as a reason to continue offending in the future.

A Survey of HM Coroners Regarding the Provision of Data on Drugs in Road Traffic Fatalities
Department for Transport, 01/02/11

Better national collection of drug levels in road fatalities is needed, as only 68% of UK coroners always test for drugs, compared to 93% who always test for alcohol.

Alcohol, psychoactive drugs and fatal road traffic accidents in Norway
Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 28/01/11

Drivers who drink alcohol or mix alcohol with a mind altering drug, are more at risk of a fatal crash than drivers who take a mixture of psychoactive drugs and drive.

Drugs and Driving: Detection and Deterrence
International Transport Forum, 14/01/11

Drug driving is a significant problem that justifies investment comparable to anti-drink driving campaigns.

Toward a National Model for Managing Impaired Driving Offenders
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 14/01/11

Abstinence programmes that tackle drink and drug driving recidivism by monitoring consumption, is effective even in dependent users.

Drug use in driver fatalities
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 07/12/10

Evidence of drug use was found in 18% of all driver deaths in the US in 2009.

Unraveling the complexity of driving while intoxicated
Queensland University of Technology, 11/10/10

Drink and drug drivers are more likely to have psychiatric disorders that lead to repeat offending unless addressed immediately following arrest.

RAC Report on Motoring 2010 – The Driver’s Perspective
RAC, 16/07/10

Drunk or drugged drivers, mobile phone usage and uninsured drivers are a big concern on the roads for over 95% of drivers.

Applying Stafford and Warr’s Reconceptualization of Deterrence Theory to Drug Driving
Queensland University of Technology, 15/04/10

Roadside drug testing should be random, sustained and well publicised to successfully deter drug driving.

Evaluation of roadside drug testing
Centre for Automotive Safety Research, 14/09/09

Roadside drug testing in Western Australia for methamphetamine, ecstasy and cannabis proves successful; initial problems detecting cannabis are resulting in manufacturers making the test more accurate.

Driving under the influence of cannabis: links with dangerous driving
University of Montreal’s psychology department, 01/04/09

Men with an average age of 27 who are impulsive and thrill-seeking are more likely to admit to driving under the influence of cannabis and be involved in a crash.

UK has the worst drug addiction rate in Europe
UK Drug Policy Commission, 01/07/07

The UK has the highest levels of drug-addiction and multi-drug consumption in Europe. 45% of young people have tried cannabis.

A comparison of crash involvement of unlicensed motorcycle riders and unlicensed drivers
Queensland University of Technology, 16/11/06

In terms of contributing factors, serious crashes involving unlicensed drivers and riders both showed an increased involvement of alcohol or drugs, speeding, inexperience and inattention.

Psychosocial influences on drug driving in young Australian drivers
Queensland University of Technology, 07/12/05

Perceptions about detection and punishment are an important influence upon drug driving behaviour for young drivers.

Incidence of drugs and alcohol in road fatalities
TRL, 01/01/01

UK Government commissioned study (2000): results from 1184 cases show that illicit drug taking increased by a factor of six since an earlier (1985 & 1987) study.


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