New report shows more people involved in fatal crashes are driving drugged

A report put out by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows more people involved in fatal crashes are driving drugged, rather than drunk.

It's a problem sweeping the nation, including Arizona. The report showed that more drivers are using marijuana and prescription drugs than alcohol, before getting behind the wheel. These things can cause the same effects as alcohol, and like alcohol, they could be deadly.

The report showed that in 2015, 43% of drivers tested in deadly crashes had drugs in their system, prescription or illegal. That compares 37% who showed alcohol levels above the legal limit.

David Larimer, Program Director with the Scottsdale Recovery Center said with the recent opioid epidemic, these numbers aren't surprising, and will probably get worse.

"We have folks that are using opiates. I'm going to drive to where I get the opiate, I'm going to be in my car when I use it, and I'm going to be driving after I'm under the influence. So, we're not surprised to see that," said Larimer.

The report showed marijuana use is increasing in drivers, along with prescription pain pills.

"Marijuana will impair coordination around distance and time, it will cause weaving," said Larimer. "Benzodiazepines is a sedative, the same thing. Opiates are the same thing. Everything is diminished, you're dealing with a sedative. Your reaction time, your brain. The converse is if I'm using methamphetamine or cocaine I'm more aggressive. I'm going to take more risks."

Alberto Gutier, Director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said although they can't control what people do, the state is being proactive to combat the problem. In addition, more training for officers is being implemented.

"Like drawing blood," said Larimer. "There's 1,000 police officers are trained to draw blood. That's unique."

While it is still a major issue, drunk driving numbers are going down in Arizona. Wrong way crashes, however, remain a serioud problem. So far this year, there's been 69 wrong way crashes on Arizona highways, resulting in 10 deaths. About 44 of those are believed to have involved an impaired driver.

The number of those people under the influence of some type of drug is unknown at this time.