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Sci Justice. 2009 Mar;49(1):19-23. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2008.06.001.

The prevalence of drugs and alcohol found in road traffic fatalities: a comparative study of victims.

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  • 1(ROAR) Forensics Ltd. Malvemrn Hills Science Park, Geraldine Road, Malvemrn, Worcestershire, WR14 3SZ, UK. simontox@yahoo.co.uk


Researchers have studied the involvement of drugs and alcohol in fatal road traffic incidents, but with particular emphasis on the possible impairment of the driver. This paper describes a comparative study of drug and alcohol findings in various victim groups (drivers of cars, vans or lorries, car passengers, motorcyclists, motorcycle passengers, cyclists and pedestrians) between 2000 and 2006. Post-mortem blood and urine specimens submitted were analysed by immunoassay, GC-NPD, GC-FID, GC-MS and HPLC-DAD. The results of 1047 cases indicated 54% of all victims were positive for drugs and/or alcohol, with the highest percentage of positive findings occurring in pedestrians (63%). Males between the ages of 17-24 were most likely to be involved in a road traffic accident, whether being in control of a vehicle (driver) or involved indirectly (car passenger, pedestrian, motorcycle passenger). A wide range of drugs were detected (e.g., drugs of abuse, anti-convulsants, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatories, anti-psychotics, cardiac drugs and over-the-counter products), but alcohol and cannabinoids were the most frequent substances across the victim groups. When detected, alcohol was commonly above the legal driving limit in blood and urine (>63% in those in control and >60% not in control). Overall, the presence of drugs and/or alcohol was of similar frequency in those victims in control (55% of driver, 48% of motorcyclists, 33% of cyclists) and not in control of a vehicle (52% of car passengers, 63% of pedestrians). This degree of frequency strongly implicates the involvement of drugs and alcohol in road traffic incidents and infers an effect on driving ability and individual impairment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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