To a large extent, the risky traffic safety behaviors observed in Q2 continued in Q3. Frequency of triptaking continued to be lower, and a greater percentage of people stayed home in Q3 2020 compared to Q\3 2019. Ejection rates remained elevated compared to the same period a year earlier. New data on seat belt use among seriously injured drivers and passengers suggests that the belt use rate among those in serious crashes decreased in the early phases of the public health emergency at the study sites, but that rate may now be rebounding. The data also suggested that alcohol- and other drug-positive drivers and passengers who were seriously or fatally injured were much less likely to wear a seat belt than their counterparts who tested negative for all the drugs included in the study.
Speed data from the NPMRDS shows higher speeds in urban roadways across roadway types in Q3 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Further, the greater speed dispersion in rural areas observed in Q2 continued in Q3 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Regarding alcohol and other drug prevalence among seriously and fatally injured drivers at the five trauma center study sites, more than 29% in the most recent period (July 19 to September 30) had measurable alcohol in their systems, with over 26% testing positive for the presence of cannabinoids and over 13% positive for opioids. In the same period, the percentage of drivers testing positive for at least one category of drugs remained above 60%, with nearly 25% testing positive for multiple
categories of drugs. These observed increases in alcohol and other drug prevalence relative to before the public health emergency are consistent with the reported data that showed increases in marijuana and alcohol sales and consumption during the public health emergency. Overall, these data sets continue to have great potential to improve our understanding of the prevalence of drugs and alcohol among different types of seriously and fatally injured road users, as well as how prevalence may be changing over time during the public health emergency.
Author(s): Office of Behavioral Safety Research
Publication Date: January 2021
Publication Site: NHTSA