The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a study suggesting that drug use among fatally injured drivers has risen from 2005 to 2009.
That bump has been steady, going up just 5 percent from 2005 to 2009. The other part of this picture is that 63 percent of fatally injured drivers were tested for drugs in 2009, 7 percent more than in 2005. Of those drivers, 18 percent tested positive for drugs.
As the NHTSA notes, drug use by a driver does not necessarily mean that was the cause of the crash. Drugs tested included narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, phencyclidines (PCPs), anabolic steroids, and inhalants.
"Every driver on the road has a personal responsibility to operate his or her vehicle with full and uncompromised attention on the driving task," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Today's report provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs, not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at risk."
While it's obvious that driving under the influence of a legal or illegal drug is a mistake, the results of this report are based on state results that vary widely in their testing methods. Then there are states like Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Maine, each of which reported testing less than 15 percent of fatally injured drivers.
"If you are taking any drugs that might impair your ability to drive safely, then you need to put common sense and caution to the forefront, and give your keys to someone else. It doesn't matter if its drugs or alcohol, if you're impaired, don't drive," Strickland said.