Drug-Related Deadly Crashes Rising in Utah

November 27, 2017

The number of fatal car crashes linked to drivers on drugs has spiked in the last two years in Utah while alcohol-related fatal wrecks have declined slightly, state figures show.

The state Legislature’s annual report on driving under the influence data shows 108 people died from crashes related to the use of alcohol or drugs last year, Deseret News reported last week. The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice compiled the report.

Fatal wrecks involving a driver testing positive for illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter drugs increased from 67 in 2015 to 72 last year. The number is the highest in the past decade and makes up more than a quarter of all fatal crashes in the state. The number was 38 in 2014 and 45 the year before.

Marijuana, methamphetamine and depressants are the drugs most often found, said Mary Lou Emerson, director of the Utah Substance Abuse Advisory Council.

While drivers may test positive for drugs, she said that doesn’t mean they were impaired at the time of the wreck because the drugs can remain in their system for a length of time.

Deadly crashes that involved a driver with blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit decreased from 37 in 2015 to 36 last year. Nearly 13 percent of all fatal wreck involved alcohol, according to the report. The number has slowly dropped since the 45 recorded in 2014, but it’s still nearly double the 2012 number.

Authorities made 10,762 DUI arrests in Utah last year with 81 percent of those drivers having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher. About 12 percent of those arrested were under the legal drinking age.

State lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year dropping the legal blood alcohol content for driving to .05 percent. The law is scheduled to go into effect in December 2018.

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