Drug use and the severity of a traffic accident

BE Smink*, B Ruiter, KJ Lusthof, JJ de Gier, DRA Uges, ACG Egberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Several studies have showed that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or certain illicit or medicinal drugs increases the risk of a (severe) crash. Data with respect to the question whether this also leads to a more severe accident are sparse. This study examines the relationship between the use of alcohol, illicit drugs and/or medicinal drugs and the severity of an accident within a group of drivers that were involved in a crash in The Netherlands. Blood samples of 993 drivers, collected in the period from October 1998 through September 1999, were linked to accident characteristics as available from the National Transport Research Centre. The outcome measure was the severity of the accident. An accident was considered severe when the accident had resulted in hospital admission or death. All the blood samples obtained after the accident were screened for the presence of alcohol, illicit drugs (opiates, amphetamines and amphetamine-like substances, cocaine and metabolites, methadone, cannabinoids) and medicinal drugs (benzodiazepines, barbiturates and tricyclic antidepressants). The strength of the associations between exposure to the different classes of alcohol/drugs/medicines and the severity of the accident was evaluated using logistic regression analysis and were expressed as odds ratios (OR), adjusted for age, gender, time of the day, day of the week and urban area. The most frequently detected drugs were cannabinoids, benzodiazepines and cocaine. Our results showed no clear association between the use of alcohol, illicit drug and/or medicinal drug use and the severity of the accident. Given the process of obtaining blood samples from drivers involved in accidents and the retrospective nature of the study, we cannot rule out the occurrence of selection bias. Therefore, our findings need further confirmation. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-433
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May-2005


  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • medicines
  • traffic accident
  • severity
  • RISK

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