Page last updated: September 18, 2018

Shift in drug vs alcohol prevalence in fatal motor vehicle accidents

A study examined the prevalence of alcohol and drugs in motor vehicle crash (MVC) fatalities in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

A retrospective review of MVC road deaths in Milwaukee County from 2010 to 2016 was performed. Substances were divided into 5 categories based on chemical composition and clinical effects: alcohol, cocaine and its metabolite benzoylecgonine, opioids, cannabinoids, amphetamines and methamphetamines. Fatalities were determined to be positive if any of these substances were detected on blood toxicology analysis.

65% of fatalities tested positive for 1 substance, while 27% had polysubstance use (≥ 2 substances). Alcohol was the most prevalent substance (44%) followed by cannabinoids (29%) and opioids (14%). There was a statistically significant increase in the number of MVC fatalities who tested positive for opioids from 2010 to 2016. The number of decedents who tested positive for alcohol only from 2010 to 2016 decreased significantly and 2016 was the first year in which the number of drug-positive decedents exceeded the number of alcohol-positive decedents.

The authors state that the prevalence of drugs exceeded that of alcohol in road fatalities for the first time in 2016 in Milwaukee County. While continued efforts to reduce alcohol-positive driving are encouraged, increased attention to drugged driving is needed to prevent further drug-positive fatalities. Source: Shift in Drug vs Alcohol Prevalence in Milwaukee County Motor Vehicle Decedents, 2010- 2016. Faryar Faryarka Ucmail Uc Edu KA, Kohlbeck SA, Schreiber SJ. WMJ. 2018 Mar;117(1):24-28.

All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.