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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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(ROAR) Forensics Ltd. Malvemrn Hills Science Park, Geraldine Road, Malvemrn, Worcestershire, WR14 3SZ, 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.

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