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Drunk and drugged driving: both deadly scourges nationally

“[T]he substances may be different but the consequences are the same -- needless deaths and injuries.”

So says Jan Withers, national president of the anti-DUI advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The subject matter Withers is addressing is car accidents caused by both inebriated and stoned drivers, a concern in Ohio and nationally, and a topic recently addressed in a study that has some notable conclusions.

Here’s one takeaway from research done at Columbia University: Fatal motor vehicle crashes involving marijuana have increased three times over during the past decade.

Here’s more food for thought from the study, which focused on scrutiny of more than 23,500 fatal accidents in which toxicology tests were performed on accident victims: Researchers believe that if such tests would be performed for all fatal accidents across the country, they would reveal that more than 10 percent of all motorists who die in crashes would test positive for marijuana.

An official with the national group Governors Highway Safety Association calls such findings “a wake-up call,” adding that Americans need to be educated about drugged driving and made aware that it can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.

And the effects can be especially pronounced and deadly when a driver is under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. A chief study researcher says that a driver under the influence of alcohol is about 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than is a sober motorist. That risk spikes to a factor of 24, though, when he or she is impaired by both alcohol and marijuana.

Readers who have a strong interest in the study findings can peruse them at leisure. They appear in the January 29 online issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Source: WebMD, "Fatal car crashes involving pot use have tripled in U.S., study finds," Dennis Thompson, Feb. 4, 2014

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