ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Characteristics of Fatal Crashes Involving Drugs (including alcohol) in Victoria and Associated Contributory Factors

Fitzharris, Michael, Lenné, Michael, Fotheringham, Nicola

Drink/Drug Driving


The incidence of alcohol and illicit drug-related crashes continues to represent a significant road safety concern in Victoria. The advent of the random drug testing program to complement long- running breath test operations highlights the high degree of priority placed on addressing this issue. There is however limited information concerning the individual characteristics of those driving with alcohol and other drugs in their system. Using the National Coroners Information System (NCIS), the aim was to explore person-based characteristics of those killed. The Victorian Road Crash Information System was used to supplement and add value to these observations. For the year 2004, 97 drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians were identified as returning a positive toxicology finding for alcohol and / or other drug. Notably, 49% of these tested positive to alcohol followed by ∆9-THC (20%), and amphetamines (9%); emphasis was therefore placed on alcohol and THC in this paper. Polydrug use was relatively common. Those killed were predominantly young males (90% alcohol; 80% THC), with factors such as unemployment, prior offence history, substance abuse, psychiatric illness, and intentional self-harm highlighting the challenge faced by road safety enforcement agencies and those designing enforcement and educational campaigns. The use of NCIS also permitted the exploration of contributing crash factors, as noted by the Coroner, with excessive speed noted in 25% of alcohol cases in contrast to 10% of THC cases. Despite NCIS primarily serving as a tool to assist the coronial process, the information contained therein, particularly when linked with crash databases, represents a powerful research tool.