Driving under the influence of substances and motor vehicle fatalities among older adults in the United States

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Objective: This study examines contribution of substance use (including alcohol, cannabinoids, stimulants, narcotics, depressants, and hallucinogens) on the probability of drivers being at-fault for a crash on U.S. public roads, with specific emphasis on older adult drivers. Methods: Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the years 2010–2018 were employed for 87,060 drivers (43,530 two-vehicle crash pairs) involved in two moving vehicle crashes. The quasi-induced exposure (QIE) method was used to compute the relative crash involvement ratios (CIRs) for each relevant substance and illicit drug. Mixed-effect generalized linear regression models were fit to examine the effect of substance use on the probability of a driver being at-fault for a crash. Results: There were 75.51% males and 73.88% Non-Hispanic Whites in our sample. The CIR for those aged 70–79 years was 1.17, and more than double (2.56) for the ≥80 years old drivers, while being relatively low among drivers of ages 20 to 69. Substance use, in general, disproportionately increased the probability of being at-fault during a crash, regardless of driver’s age. Though older drivers are less likely than other age groups to report substance use, presence of substances among older drivers increased the probability of their being at-fault two to four times during a crash across almost all substances. The regression models, after adjusting for driver’s sex, road grade, weather, light conditions, distraction, and speeding at time of crash, revealed that older drug-impaired drivers were twice as likely to be at fault in a fatal crash (aOR = 1.947; 95% CI = 1.821, 2.082; <0.0001) compared to their middle-aged counterparts. Similarly, most substance use categories were responsible for the probabilities of higher CIRs among the drivers. Conclusion: These findings necessitate continued efforts to bring awareness to the deadly consequences of “drugged driving,” especially among older adult drivers.




Kedia, S., Mahmood, A., Xie, L., Jiang, Y., Dillon, P., Ahuja, N., … Entwistle, C. (2023). Driving under the influence of substances and motor vehicle fatalities among older adults in the United States. Traffic Injury Prevention, 24(5), 379–386. https://doi.org/10.1080/15389588.2023.2188435

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