Shortly after being arrested for driving under the influence near his home in Florida Monday, golf legend Tiger Woods issued a statement saying the incident was the result of “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications”—not alcohol. According to police documents, he blew a .000 breathalyzer and had fallen asleep in his car.
With that, Tiger Woods has become the most high-profile example of a worrisome nationwide trend: Drugged driving is on the rise, and for the first time ever, people involved in fatal crashes are more likely to have drugs than alcohol in their systems.
A report published this April by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that both illegal and prescription drugs are found in the bodies of fatally-injured drivers—a good source of data, since they are tested more often than drivers in non-fatal crashes—about 43 percent of the time. Alcohol above the legal limit, meanwhile, was found in just 37 percent of the drivers.
That’s a stark turnaround from 2005, when alcohol was the bigger culprit, detected in 41 percent of traffic deaths, compared to just 28 percent for drugs, as Reuters reported.
The number of people driving under the influence of prescription drugs has increased in recent years. A just-released study found that 20 percent of drivers had used a prescription drug in the past two days—mostly sedatives, antidepressants, and painkillers.