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ANALYSIS OF DRUGS / ALCOHOL INVOLVEMENT IN FATAL TRAFFIC CRASHES


 

Introduction

Motor vehicles are very important small transportation in everyone’s life, which used for moving people and cargo from one place to another place. It is relatively easy to operate and does not require a lot of knowledge for the test or documents to drive within the United States. However, it is required to have a certain level of law knowledge along with basic driving rules. For a fact, any DMV in Europe country would test driving abilities and law knowledge several times before letting a person to operate any vehicle, but we will get back to it later.

American company “AAA” in 2015 made a correlation in their studies and compared the number of fatal crashes in two decades, within the United States. Studies showed that young drivers more often getting in fatal crashes rather than it was 10 years ago. If that is true, what is the cause of growing numbers of fatalities? Luck of the experience from the younger generation, reckless driving, irresponsibility and unlawful behavior (drugs / alcohol), or just an accident? If the responsible authority can identify the problems and put enough afford to solve this issue, it will be possibly to save a huge number of lives and lower the number of accidents in the future.

The causes and pattern of fatal traffic crashes can be identified by this research and used for feasible solution and decision making. The overall analysis is based on a dataset named US_FARS DATA, FARS stands for “Fatality Analysis Reporting System”. By using that dataset, overall analysis, research and problem-solving process of causes and pattern are done. The analysis result can be helpful for the government and regulation authorities to decrease the number of fatal crashes within the United States.


Data Preparation

Name of the dataset used here is US_FARS DATA and provided by FARS. There are 27 dimensions and 2,126,828 rows of records within that file. By selecting relevant key variables, we left joined FAR table and dimensions to pick up all the relevant fields needed for the analysis. The focus of that research will be, “Alcohol and Drugs Involvement in Fatal Traffic Crashes” as most of the dimensions related to alcohol and drugs involvement. It is relatively easy to test motorists to determine whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and determine whether it was a factor in a crash. However, we will correlate this information with age group, year, location and law involvement to find the causes and patterns. This file contains valuable information like police assumptions on driver influence by drug substances or alcohol, day of week, year, person type, drugs/alcohol involved, if person (driver) tested or not and which tests did they used.


Analysis

On preliminary analysis we have an assumption that for that past 10 years drivers killed in crashes were more likely to be on drugs than drunk (Appendix 1), but the total fatality crashes within the United States from 1995 to 2015 lowered by 25%. It raises a serious concern at a time when the United States is facing an epidemic of opioid usage and more states legalizing soft psychoactive substances - drugs for medical and recreational usage. How big is the problem, if some of the young generation thinking that soft drugs, for instance opioids do not impair their ability of driving and some even believe that it makes them safer drivers. We have heard numerous times and stories from people who is driving constantly either on drugs or alcohol, sometimes even both and saying it makes them calmer and more relaxed. However, the effects of specific drugs on driving skills depending on how they act in the brain. For instance, marijuana can slow the reaction time on the roads while driving, which can cause a serious accident, or alcohol is a widespread euphoriant and acts as a centra nervous system depressant, that may cause the driver to fall asleep or on the opposite side driving reckless.


By analyzing the overall dataset and different variables from a different perspective, we can see that there are some top States in using drugs and alcohol while driving with a significant number of fatal crashes occurred. From different visualizations and analyses, we have drawn those insights.


After Alcohol, marijuana Is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers that involved in fatal traffic crashes (Appendix 2). Since 2012, nine states started decriminalization and recreational of soft drugs, the first states were Colorado, Washington, California, Alaska and Oregon. In most of the mentioned states soft drugs used to be as a medical substance for a while, which gives it easier accesses to the people, for instance California were people have an easy access to soft drugs, it all matters while looking at the analysis of fatal crashes, on the other hand we have states such as Louisiana, Texas were even nowadays all the substances are illegal, but alcohol prevails. In Appendix 3, we can clearly determine the spikes in fatal crashes, using alcohol versus marijuana dimensions. It is clearly that alcohol dominates in tests, however since 2012 when it was first legalized as recreational, we have a progressive upward trend in marijuana been involved in state such as California and later even in Louisiana. The appropriate population ratio used, for one fatal accident in Louisiana there are five fatal accidents in California.

The overall drug usage that involved in motor fatal accidents in State of California increased by 11% since 2012-2015 and by 10% in state of Louisiana, in only 3 years (Appendix 4). The population, age group with the greatest number of accidents for drugged driving will be teenagers and relatively young adults with the group age 18-24, which can be correlated with an easy access to drugs in certain states and black market of drugs in states where it is illegal (Appendix 5). We also check on adults and seniors as they usually take prescribed medicine, such as painkillers and usually overtaking it, however there was no sign or spikes in analysis of adults and seniors, but we can see on Appendix 6 that overall usage of drugs relatively in stagnation compared to 24-hour usage of alcohol, which tells us that people may take prescribed medication in the morning, noon and evening, compared to alcohol where obvious spikes in the evening after 5-6pm. Does that mean that unlawful behavior towards drinking and driving is more relevant compared to drugs involvement as most of them prescribed?


Yes and No, as it was mentioned in Appendix 2, cannabinol is number one drug used while driving and it is growing rapidly. Police usually determine unlawful driver by his/her behavior, besides fatal injuries where blood test is the only way to find out what was the cause, they do not usually test on drugs if the driver has reached an illegal blood alcohol level, which is enough information for DUI.


If we look at the current situation, we should pay attention to alcohol, as for example since 1995 to 2015 on July 4th (Appendix 7) the biggest percentage of traffic accidents reported was due to alcohol, however the overall drug trend is prevailing every single year. Even though alcohol stays number one awareness for the police and independent authorities, drugs are playing bigger and bigger role in our lives.

It clearly shows the trend of marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado increased by 120 percent from 2012-2015, after the state legalized recreational (Appendix 8).

If we look in detailed analysis on 24-hour chart with different drugs, overall usage (amount) of cannabinol will be first again, and only then prescribed medical drugs, which means overall marijuana trend is growing and it is more relevant than any other drugs or alcohol (Appendix 9).


Conclusion

What actions people can take in order to prevent drugging driving? The first thing they should develop social strategy in order to teach young generation to prevent them from getting behind the wheel while on drugs or alcohol. For instance, in Europe they have high school classes where professors teach young generation about the drug-alcohol law and involvement in driving, in order to be a responsible citizen not only for your own life but everyone else life, as well as driving abilities and rules in 3 stages. Minimum Driving Age should be changed from 16 to 18, besides having a lack of experience in driving due to age, clearly see in Appendix 10, young people could be easily influenced to something that illegal with little or no responsibility at all.

Sometime the cause of fatal traffic accidents can even be legally prescribed medicine by the doctors for mental health illness, or in basic wisdom teeth removal. Being itself a strong antidepressant and mixing it with alcohol and other drugs can cause a serious consequence in our lives.

Especially looking at the worldwide statistic, where United States leading in mental health illness, it is required to take a serious action in order to minimize traffic accidents.


Research Provided by Andrey Fateev


 

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Appendix 10


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