Drug driving is an issue of growing concern among Australian jurisdictions, including South Australia. In order to have an appropriate response to drug driving in regard to policy and enforcement, it is important to have sound knowledge about the patterns of drug use among motorists and the associated risks of this behavior.
To this end, this study examined the characteristics of 1,277 hospitalized road users in South Australia in the years 2014 to 2017, with reference to whether or not they tested positive for alcohol or other drugs (the three drugs tested for according to the South Australian Road Traffic Act (1961): THC, methamphetamine, MDMA). This examination used a database combining hospital data, police-reported crash data, licensing information, and the result of alcohol and drug tests conducted by Forensic Science SA.
It was found that more motorists were positive for one or more of the three illicit drugs than for alcohol, reversing long established trends. Comparisons were made between alcohol and drug free motorists, alcohol positive motorists, drug positive motorists, and motorists positive for both drugs and alcohol, with drivers of cars and motorcyclists analyzed separately where possible. Findings include: that those combining drugs and alcohol only comprise a small proportion of hospitalized motorists; that drug drivers tend to be younger than other hospitalized motorists; that drivers are more likely to test positive to alcohol or methamphetamine, while motorcyclists are more likely to test positive to THC; motorists testing positive to drugs and/or alcohol tend to exhibit a range of other risky behaviors; and motorists testing positive to drugs and/or alcohol tend to sustain more severe injuries in the event of a crash.
Preventing drink and drug driving is important not only for reducing crash numbers but also injury severity in the event of a crash. Substance use differs by road user type and age, which has potential implications for enforcement practices.