Dead drivers in NJ test positive for drugs more than alcohol
Reversing an eight-year trend, more doped-up drivers are dying behind the wheel than drinkers.
According to AAA Northeast, which examined traffic fatality data from the past decade, more fatally-injured drivers in New Jersey tested positive for drugs than alcohol in 2015 and 2016, reversing the trend from 2007 to 2014.
Alcohol alone, however, still was involved in more deaths than any individual drug. It was not clear whether the study took into account whether the drivers who tested positive for alcohol or substances had been found at fault for their accidents.
During 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 39 percent of drivers killed behind the wheel in New Jersey tested positive for drugs, compared to 15 percent in 2007. Of those, 19 percent tested positive for cannabinoids, and 12 percent for narcotics.
Among drivers who died in crashes during 2016, 49 tested positive for marijuana, 31 tested positive for narcotics, while 92 tested positive for alcohol.
At 14, Middlesex County registered the most drugged driver deaths, followed by Monmouth with 11.
"It's just a reflection of how cavalierly we take driving," said Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast. "We don't have a serious enough attitude."
Sinclair said while the message "don't drink and drive" is seen and heard all the time, warnings about the dangers of drugged driving aren't as common, but should be.
Compared to 76 percent in 2013, AAA's 2017 traffic safety culture index found 66 percent of those surveyed consider it completely unacceptable to drive within an hour of using marijuana.
Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states, and medical marijuana is legal in 30, including New Jersey.
"We think that with all the legislation that's happening with marijuana, that it's sort of de-stigmatizing the use of the drug and getting behind the wheel," Sinclair said.