Drugs and driving

picture of a steering wheel

Most recent statistics reveal that more than 40 000 people die on European roads each year, while a further 1.7 million are injured. No less than a quarter of these deaths, some 10 000 per year, are estimated to be caused by drink-driving. And although alcohol is by far the most prevalent and well-documented psychoactive substance affecting drivers, concerns have been mounting about increasing reports of road deaths linked to illicit or medicinal drugs.

Public awareness of the role of psychoactive substances other than alcohol in road traffic accidents has increased, due to attention given to this issue by the media, and policymakers are increasingly called upon to respond to this problem.

EMCDDA publications and online resources

Responding to drug driving in Europe (Drugs in focus 20, EMCDDA, 2009)

DResponding to drug driving in Europe cover

Many of the accidents and deaths that occur on European roads are caused by drivers whose performance is impaired by a psychoactive substance. Alcohol alone is estimated to account for up to 10 000 road deaths a year in the European Union, one quarter of all road deaths. No comparable figures are available for road accidents related to illicit drugs and psychoactive medicines, though these have been receiving increasing attention over the past decade.

Drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents (Insights series, EMCDDA, 2008)

Drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents cover

This literature review provides a comprehensive report on the relationship between drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents. It covers methodological issues , presents results of prevalence surveys among drivers and provides an overview of findings from major international epidemiological surveys published since 1999 , and also gathers evidence from experimental and field studies of the relationship between drug use, driving impairment and traffic accidents.

Cannabis use and driving (A cannabis reader: global issues and local experiences, Monograph series 8, Vol. 2 Chapter 9, EMCDDA, 2008)

EMCDDA Cannabis monograph cover

This chapter extract from the EMCDDA's monograph on cannabis looks at driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) which has become an increasingly important issue from a public policy and road safety perspective. The chapter has as an objective to examine critically the findings connecting cannabis and traffic crashes, and also to consider the problems in developing methods to assess cannabis impairment for legal purposes.

Drugs and driving (Selected issues, EMCDDA, 2007)

EMCDDA selected issue on drugs and driving cover

Since the late 1990s, much European and world research has addressed the issue of driving under the influence of psychoactive substances. This Selected issue on ‘Drugs and driving’ focuses on driving after taking cannabis and benzodiazepines. Country responses were analysed to determine the prevalence of these substances among drivers and studied in the context of policy and legislation, law enforcement and prevention.

Legal approaches to drugs and driving (ELDD topic overviews, EMCDDA, online)

Topic overview table screenshot

This topic overview gives a descriptive overview of the wide variety of legal mechanisms in force in the EU and Norway – whether provisions exist in drug control laws or road traffic laws, the substances addressed, the status and levels of penalties, any levels of tolerance, and whether drivers can be stopped for tests at any time or if the police require some form of suspicion beforehand.

Literature review on the relation between drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents (EMCDDA, 1999)

Driving literature review cover image, 1999

This literature review addressed inter alia the relationship between different patterns of drug consumption, impaired driving and traffic accidents. In addition drug testing procedures and associated legislation regarding drug-impaired driving in the different EU Member States were described and the issues raised by such testing reviewed. The outcomes of the study included a scientific literature review and annotated bibliography on the relation between drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents.

EU flag

EU projects on drugs and driving


DRUID (Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines) focuses on the issue of drink-driving and attempts to find answers to questions concerning the use of drugs or medicines that affect people's ability to drive safely. Its aim is to gain new insights to the real degree of impairment caused by psychoactive drugs and their actual impact on road safety.

ROSITA (completed 2005)

ROSITA (Roadside Testing Assessment) was set up to identify the requirements for roadside testing equipment and to make an internal comparative assessment of existing equipment or prototypes. The assessment addresses roadside testing, result validity, equipment reliability, usability and usage costs.

Immortal (completed 2002)

Immortal was a research programme concerning the accident risk associated with different forms of driver impairment and the identification of 'tolerance levels' applied to licensing assessment and roadside impairment testing (including drug screening).

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