Over 50% of young driver fatalities involve alcoholBy Melita Kiely
Statistics show that more than half of young drivers who died in car crashes in the US were either under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, or both.
The data was collected from statistics for fatal road accidents involving people aged from 16 to 25-years-old in nine US states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington State and West Virginia.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analysed the information to see whether policy changes could potentially influence substance use among teenagers and young adults.
Led by Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology, the study was published online in the journal, Injury Epidemiology.
“Policies related to the use of substances in the United States remain in flux,” said Dr Keyes. “It’s imperative to know whether there will be unintended consequences of changes in policies, including increases or decreases in harm related to other substances that are not the focus of the policy.”
The research team studied a total of 7,191 fatal accidents involving young drivers between 1999 and 2011 who died within an hour of the crash occurring.
More than half (50.3%) of those who died tested positive for alcohol, marijuana or both.
Out of these, 36.8% were under the influence of alcohol, 5.9% consumed only marijuana and 7.6% used both.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption increased by 14% for those aged 21 years and above, but marijuana consumption remained constant and combined use of both substances increased only slightly.
“Taken together, we found no significant substitution effect between alcohol and marijuana,” said co-author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, Mailman School professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention.
“Rather, an uptick in availability seems to increase the prevalence of concurrent use of alcohol and marijuana.”