Research Article

Role of drugs in traffic accidents.

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 15 November 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:1309
  1. R Honkanen,
  2. L Ertama,
  3. M Linnoila,
  4. A Alha,
  5. I Lukkari,
  6. M Karlsson,
  7. O Kiviluoto,
  8. M Puro


    Serum samples from 201 drivers who presented at emergency departments within six hours after being injured in a road accident and 325 control drivers selected randomly at petrol stations were screened for drugs by combined thin-layer and gas chromatography. Blood alcohol concentrations were also measured, and a questionnaire on the subjects' state of health and use of drugs administered. At interview 30 patients (15%) and 44 controls (13%) said that they had taken drugs in the previous 24 hours. Four patients (2%) and six controls (2%) said that they had taken psychotropic drugs, but serum analysis detected psychotropic drugs in 10 patients (5%) and eight controls (2.5%). Diazepam was found in 16 of the 18 subjects in whom psychotropic drugs were detected. Alcohol was detected in 30 patients (15%) and three controls (1%). Drug use appeared to be somewhat lower in Finland than in other Western countries, and illness to be a more important traffic hazard than drugs in general. Interview was not a reliable method of establishing whether drivers had taken psychotropic drugs. Taking diazepam may increase the risk of being involved in a traffic accident, but alcohol was the most powerful risk factor.