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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
May 2, 2007

Alcohol and Other Drug Use Among Victims of Motor-Vehicle Crashes—West Virginia, 2004-2005

JAMA. 2007;297(17):1873-1874. doi:10.1001/jama.297.17.1873

MMWR. 2006;55:1293-1296

2 tables omitted

Alcohol use is a well-established risk factor for motor-vehicle crashes.1 In 2005, approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities in the United States were alcohol related.2 Evidence of driver impairment from use of drugs other than alcohol is less definitive. In 2005, an estimated 4.3% of persons in the United States reported driving under the influence of a drug used recreationally during the preceding year, and an unknown percentage drove while impaired by drugs being used for medical reasons.3 To measure the prevalence of alcohol and drug use among persons killed in motor-vehicle crashes in West Virginia (where test results were available for >80% of fatalities), CDC analyzed 2004 and 2005 data reported by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which determined that the prevalence of drug use (25.8%) was similar to the prevalence of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) ≥0.08 g/dL (27.7%) among persons killed in motor-vehicle crashes. These results suggest that drug use contributes substantially to driver impairment in West Virginia. Measuring the magnitude of this problem nationally will require better surveillance data. Both surveillance and the development of prevention measures are hampered by difficulties in quantifying and defining drug impairment.