The incidence of drugs in drivers killed in Australian road traffic crashes

Forensic Sci Int. 2003 Jul 8;134(2-3):154-62. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(03)00134-8.


The incidence of alcohol and drugs in fatally injured drivers were determined in three Australian states; Victoria (VIC), New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA) for the period of 1990-1999. A total of 3398 driver fatalities were investigated which included 2609 car drivers, 650 motorcyclists and 139 truck drivers. Alcohol at or over 0.05 g/100ml (%) was present in 29.1% of all drivers. The highest prevalence was in car drivers (30.3%) and the lowest in truckers (8.6%). WA had the highest rate of alcohol presence of the three states (35.8%). Almost 10% of the cases involved both alcohol and drugs. Drugs (other than alcohol) were present in 26.7% of cases and psychotropic drugs in 23.5%. These drugs comprised cannabis (13.5%), opioids (4.9%), stimulants (4.1%), benzodiazepines (4.1%) and other psychotropic drugs (2.7%). 8.5% of all drivers tested positive for Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the balance of cannabis positive drivers were positive to only the 11-nor-Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (carboxy-THC) metabolite. The range of THC blood concentrations in drivers was 0.1-228 ng/ml, with a median of 9 ng/ml. Opioids consisted mainly of morphine (n=84), codeine (n=89) and methadone (n=33), while stimulants consisted mainly of methamphetamine (n=51), MDMA (n=6), cocaine (n=5), and the ephedrines (n=61). The prevalence of drugs increased over the decade, particularly cannabis and opioids, while alcohol decreased. Cannabis had a larger prevalence in motorcyclists (22.2%), whereas stimulants had a much larger presence in truckers (23%).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Benzodiazepines / blood
  • Cannabinoids / blood
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / blood
  • Child
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles / classification
  • Narcotics / blood
  • Prevalence
  • Psychotropic Drugs / blood
  • Substance-Related Disorders / blood
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Narcotics
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol