Univ. of Iowa researchers study drugged driving outcomes

Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 6:23 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Death and injury among road-users is up to an alarming rate according to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and local researchers. They found that 55.8% of people seriously injured or killed in road crashes tested positive for one or more drugs.

The researchers at the University of Iowa say one of their biggest concerns is how many people had more than one substance in their system.

“Nationwide it’s about 18% that was positive for more than one drug so obviously this study is a really prevalent study. It gives us a snapshot of what’s going on,” said Research Scientist and Director of Drugged Driving Research, Dr. Tim Brown.

Now, they’ll use this information to take a deeper look into the cause of the roadway crashes.

Dr. Brown says because someone has a drug or alcohol in their system doesn’t necessarily mean that is the cause of the crash.

“When we look at trying to find solutions, that gives us an insight,” he said. “Okay these are the areas where there’s the biggest potential opportunity to improve traffic safety by addressing the people who are driving under the influence of these drugs.”

They also look into who was seriously injured or killed. This data includes not just drivers, but pedestrians and bicyclists as well.

“Whether it’s walking from a bar to your apartment downtown, or walking alongside the road after you’ve had a drink, that impairs your ability to respond when things happen unexpectedly on the roadway,” said Dr. Brown.

From there, they are able to get a better idea as to where groups like law enforcement officers can improve traffic safety.

“We have officers out there that are drug recognition experts, they’re specialized in that,” said Sgt. James Lancaster with Iowa State Patrol. “If you’re not going to call for a ride and get somebody to get you home safely, we’re going to arrest you and find some place for you.”