Auto Accident Injuries

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a study that provides potentially consequential insight into who is suffering serious, catastrophic, and fatal injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The NHTSA is the federal agency directly tasked with minimizing the likelihood that non-commercial travelers will suffer non-fatal injuries or death while traversing highways and surface streets in the U.S. As a result, the agency regularly studies the various aspects of road travel that may help its professionals to better understand how to prevent consequential collisions.

This new large-scale study has revealed that more than half of all individuals who suffer either fatal injuries or serious injuries requiring immediate medical attention as a result of motor vehicle crashes have alcohol, at least one drug, or multiple substances in their bloodstreams at the time that they suffer harm. Of all the substances found in the bloodstreams of victims, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was the most common, followed by alcohol.

It is important to note that the victims studied included passengers, as well as motor vehicle operators. Therefore, this study is not necessarily an indictment of drunk or drugged driving behavior. Yet, it is telling that such a significant fraction of crash injury victims have impairing substances in their systems at the time that they suffer harm.


NHTSA researchers analyzed blood tests drawn at four medical examiners’ offices and seven level-one trauma centers between the Autumn of 2019 and the Summer of 2021 in Jacksonville, Worcester, Charlotte, Baltimore, Iowa City, and Sacramento. Samples from more than 7,200 accident victims were assessed by the agency’s researchers.

In all, more than 25 percent of samples contained THC, more than 23 percent contained alcohol, nearly 11 percent contained stimulants, and nearly 10 percent contained opioids.

The study was conducted as a “first step” measure in re: assessing the prevalence of drug and alcohol use among road travelers nationwide.

What Are the Implications of the Study?

Over the past 100 years, it has become clear that the results of major traffic-related studies are only as influential as lawmakers, activists, lobbyists, and industry professionals allow them to be. It is possible that this study could ultimately influence future policies and initiatives, as well as automotive technology. However, it is possible that the wisdom gained from the study may be largely dismissed as well.

With that said, the study could result in some positive effects on a micro level. As an experienced car accident lawyer – including those who practice at Patterson Bray, PLLC – can confirm, many injury victims are unsure of whether they should seek legal guidance in the wake of a crash. With the knowledge that – statistically speaking – it is more likely than not that others involved in the crash had substances in their bloodstreams at the moment of impact, they may be more inclined to believe that they could be entitled to compensation and that exploring their options is an effort worthy of their time.