Motorists warned over drug-driving
Almost a quarter of all dead drivers and riders analysed in the last three years in Northern Ireland had taken drugs, it was revealed.
The total has increased by a fifth since 1999, official figures suggested.
Medical information about the risks from consuming substances and driving should be strengthened, a panel of experts said, adding healthcare workers must be better informed about the dangers.
Panel chair Dr Kim Wolff said: "We are particularly concerned about the need to raise awareness among the general public about the risks associated with drug-driving, especially the elevated risks when psychoactive drugs are consumed with alcohol, and recommend that this is a key road safety issue and should be addressed as a priority."
In Northern Ireland almost a quarter of all dead drivers and riders analysed in the last three years had drugs in their bodies, the Environment Department said. This represents an increase of 21% since 1999, the DoE campaign added.
"Drugs driving is widespread throughout Northern Ireland," it said.
In 2010/11 nine people were seriously injured because of illicit or medicinal drugs, according to a PSNI Freedom of Information response.
Dr Wolff, a reader in addiction science at King's College London, recently published UK research for the Department of Transport on drug driving.
The panel recommended blood samples from all road traffic accidents should be collected and examined against a universal list of substances, with results held on a national database, similar to Norway.
"This system would facilitate the evaluation of drug prevalence from a road safety perspective and provide much-needed evidence of the consequences of driving," the report said.