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“One in three fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs,” reads the headline of a press release published yesterday, November 30, 2010 by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in Washington, D.C.

A third—33 percent—of drivers killed in automobile accidents were on at least one kind of drug not including alcohol. That’s a staggering statistic.

Driving while impaired (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) data and prevention efforts often focus on drunk driving. But drugged driving presents a serious risk for property damage, personal injury and even death.

Sadly (and scarily,) the trend is on the rise.

The new fatality analysis released by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) also confirms the involvement of drugs in fatal crashes has increased by five percent since 2005.

“Drugged driving is a much bigger public health threat than most Americans realize and unfortunately, it may be getting worse,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of ONDCP in the press release.

To combat the prevalence of drugged driving, states nationwide are experimenting with different of legal actions. Per se laws target drivers with illicit drugs in their systems. In the 19 states that have adopted strict or “zero tolerance” per se laws, driving with any amount of illegal substance in the body is a criminal offense.

North Carolina happens to be one of the states subscribing to these zero tolerance per se laws.

Obviously, illegal drugs like cocaine and heroine fall into the territory of “zero tolerance.” Prescription drug presence while driving presents a challenge for law enforcement, attorneys and legislators to learn how to effectively regulate.

NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Reporting System—the entity responsible for collecting the data used in the analysis covered by this news-making report—tests drivers killed in collisions for illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs including “narcotics, stimulants, depressants, marijuana, hallucinogens, PCP, anabolic steroids and inhalants,” according to a blog from

There’s a cautionary tale in the data: If you chose to use drugs, don’t drive. And if you consume prescription narcotics or mind-and-body altering medications, be careful about getting behind the wheel. Designate a driver if you must travel and follow your doctor’s directions closely. Don’t drive until you know how the drugs will affect you. The life you save could be your own.

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