WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of drivers on the road with alcohol in their systems has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, but there has been a large increase in drivers using marijuana and other illegal drugs, a government report released Friday found.
The report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the share of drivers who test positive for alcohol has declined by more than three-quarters since the agency first began conducting roadside surveys in 1973.
But the latest survey, conducted in 2013 and 2014, also found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety. That includes illegal drugs as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications.
The anonymous surveys have been conducted five times over the last 40 years. They gather data in dozens of locations across the country from drivers who agree to participate.
Mark Rosekind, head of the safety administration, credited anti-drunk driving efforts for the decline in drivers who test positive for alcohol, but said “there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash.”
About 8 percent of drivers during weekend nighttime hours were found to have some alcohol in their system, and 1.5 percent were found with .08 percent or higher breath alcohol content — the legal limit in every state. Drivers with any alcohol in their systems and drivers testing greater than .08 were both down by about 30 percent from the previous survey in 2007. Both groups are also down by more than three-quarters since the first survey in 1973.
At the same time, more than 15 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one illegal drug, up from 12 percent in 2007. The number of drivers with marijuana in their systems grew by nearly 50 percent over the same period of time, 8.6 percent in 2007 to 12.6 percent in 2014.
“The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” Rosekind warned.
A second survey, the largest of its kind, assessed the comparative risk of drunk and drugged driving. The study was conducted in Virginia Beach, Virginia, over a 20-month period and involved the collection of data from more than 3,000 drivers involved in a crash, and more than 6,000 crash-free drivers for comparison.
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