Tuesday, March 8, 2022

With the exception of alcohol, relatively little is known about drugged driving prevalence and the relationship of drugs to crash risk. Dunlap and Associates, Inc., selected the University of Iowa as one of the data collection sites to examine the prevalence of alcohol and drugs from several categories, which includes over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs, in motor vehicle crashes.

The data from this project will lead to a better understanding of the prevalence of drug use among injured drivers and other highway system users (e.g., pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycle riders). Sponsored by NHTSA, the project is collecting data from a large sample of seriously- and fatally-injured drivers and victims of other traumas who report to an emergency room.

After an initial phase of the project (prior to the University of Iowa getting involved), NHTSA reported: “Drivers in particular showed significantly higher overall drug prevalence during the pandemic, with 64.7% testing positive for at least one active drug, compared to 50.8% before. […] The observed cannabis and opioid prevalence rates before and during the public health emergency could be indicative of a growing problem.” More recent data is now under analysis.

To gather this data, NADS researchers Tim Brown, PhD, and Michelle Reyes collaborated with partners at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. The NADS team was able to link about 300 individuals treated in the Emergency Department for motor vehicle crash injuries to data from police-reported crashes. The NADS team extracted the data specified by Dunlap, verified its accuracy, and entered it into an online data portal. In addition, they worked with the Iowa DOT to obtain the crash diagrams and created crash reports without personally identifiable information.