Alcohol, drugs and traffic safety

Alcohol or drug impairment is one of the main contributing causes of road traffic crashes (RTCs). The effect of alcohol impairment on the crash risk has been well documented during the last 100 years, whereas documentation studies on the effect of drug impairment on the crash risk have been performed mostly during the last couple of decades, and still much needs to be better documented.

The Department of Forensic Sciences at Oslo University Hospital analyzes all blood samples taken by the police in cases of suspected driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. In addition, the department analyses more than 90% of samples taken from drivers killed in road traffic crashes. Expert reports assessing possible impairment are prepared by employees of the Department. In order to better understand the prevalence of alcohol and drug use among drivers, as well as the associated crash risk, several research projects on alcohol, drugs and traffic safety have been performed.

Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay         

Ongoing projects

The prevalence of alcohol and drug use among drivers killed in road traffic crashes

Trends in use of alcohol and drugs among car drivers and motorcycle riders killed in RTCs during 2001-2020 are studied. Data are collected by coupling data from the following registries: the forensic toxicology databases of Oslo University and St. Olav’s Hospital, the Traffic Accident Registry of Statistics Norway, and the Crash Investigation Team Database operated by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Also, associations between alcohol/drug impairment, driver-related risk factors, and crash characteristics are investigated.

The prevalence of alcohol and drug use among seriously injured road users admitted to emergency departments

A study performed in 2007-8 at Ullevål Hospital (Oslo) found that about 20% of injured drivers tested positive for alcohol or drugs. A larger, national study is being performed as part of the IDART project, where 35 emergency departments are involved. We are also collaborating on similar studies in Brazil, Malawi, and Cameroon.

Rearrests and fatalities among convicted drink and drug drivers

A registry based study is performed to determine the re-arrest and mortality rates of drivers sentenced to prison for DUI.

Previous projects

  • Use of alcohol among injured road users in Malawi
  • Analysis of oral fluid to detect drug use and impairment among drivers
  • Association between alcohol and drug use and sensation seeking behavior or self-reported speeding tickets and crash involvement and among drivers
  • Trends in drug use among drivers arrested for drug-impaired driving
  • Crash-risk associated with use of different drugs
  • Use of alcohol and drugs among drivers in random road traffic
    • Drivers in South-Eastern Norway (2005-6)
    • Drivers in 13 European Countries (2007-9)
    • Truck drivers in Norway (2008-9)
    • Truck drivers in Brazil (2008-16)
    • Drivers in the arctic counties of Finnmark (Norway) and Murmansk (Russia) (2014-16)
    • Drivers in South-Eastern Norway (2016-17)
    • Drivers in Cameroon (2020)

Project members

  • Hallvard Gjerde (Senior Scientist, PhD)
  • Stig Tore Bogstrand (Professor, Head of Research, PhD)
  • Ragnhild Jamt (Post doc., PhD )
  • Benedicte Jørgenrud (Coordinator, MSc)

Past members

  • Håvard Furuhaugen (Laboratory Engineer, MSc)
  • Vigdis Vindenes (Section Manager, PhD)
  • Anja Valen (PhD student 2016-2021)


  • Jan Ramaekers (Professor), Department of Psychology, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Vilma Leyton (Professor), Department of Legal Medicine, Ethics and Occupational Health, University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Flavio Pechansky (Professor), Research Center for Alcohol and Drugs, University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Asbjørg S. Christophersen (Professor Emer.), Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo
  • Jørg Mørland (Professor Emer.), Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo
  • Tara Kelley-Baker (Chief), Impaired Driving Division, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, USA
  • Live Tanum Pasnin, Norwegian National Road Policing Service, Stavern, Norway


About 50 peer-reviewed articles in international scientific journals since 2010.

A selection of 10 recently published articles:

Pasnin LT, Gjerde H (2021)
Alcohol and drug use among road users involved in fatal crashes in Norway
Traffic Inj Prev, 22 (4), 267-271
DOI 10.1080/15389588.2021.1887854, PubMed 33724110

Christophersen AS, Karinen R, Mørland J, Gjerde H (2020)
The implementation of per-se limits for driving under the influence of benzodiazepines and related drugs: No increased risk for arrest during therapeutic use in Norway
Traffic Inj Prev, 21 (2), 122-126
DOI 10.1080/15389588.2020.1724977, PubMed 32119573

Jamt REG, Gjerde H, Furuhaugen H, Romeo G, Vindenes V, Ramaekers JG, Bogstrand ST (2020)
Associations between psychoactive substance use and sensation seeking behavior among drivers in Norway
BMC Public Health, 20 (1), 23
DOI 10.1186/s12889-019-8087-0, PubMed 31914964

Sundet M, Kajombo C, Mulima G, Bogstrand ST, Varela C, Young S, Christophersen AS, Gjerde H (2020)
Prevalence of alcohol use among road traffic crash victims presenting to a Malawian Central Hospital: A cross-sectional study
Traffic Inj Prev, 21 (8), 527-532
DOI 10.1080/15389588.2020.1819990, PubMed 33064031

Gjerde H, Ramaekers JG, Mørland JG (2019)
Methodologies for establishing the relationship between alcohol/drug use and driving impairment - Differences between epidemiological, experimental, and real-case studies
Forensic Sci Rev, 31 (2), 141-160
PubMed 31270059

Jamt REG, Gjerde H, Romeo G, Bogstrand ST (2019)
Association between alcohol and drug use and arrest for driving under the influence after crash involvement in a rural area of Norway: a case-control study
BMJ Open, 9 (1), e023563
DOI 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023563, PubMed 30610022

Valen A, Bogstrand ST, Vindenes V, Frost J, Larsson M, Holtan A, Gjerde H (2019)
Driver-related risk factors of fatal road traffic crashes associated with alcohol or drug impairment
Accid Anal Prev, 131, 191-199
DOI 10.1016/j.aap.2019.06.014, PubMed 31306833

Valen A, Bogstrand ST, Vindenes V, Frost J, Larsson M, Holtan A, Gjerde H (2019)
Fatally injured drivers in Norway 2005-2015-Trends in substance use and crash characteristics
Traffic Inj Prev, 20 (5), 460-466
DOI 10.1080/15389588.2019.1616700, PubMed 31169405

Furuhaugen H, Jamt REG, Nilsson G, Vindenes V, Gjerde H (2018)
Roadside survey of alcohol and drug use among Norwegian drivers in 2016-2017: A follow-up of the 2008-2009 survey
Traffic Inj Prev, 19 (6), 555-562
DOI 10.1080/15389588.2018.1478087, PubMed 29927625

Gjerde H, Clausen GB, Andreassen E, Furuhaugen H (2018)
Evaluation of Dräger DrugTest 5000 in a Naturalistic Setting
J Anal Toxicol, 42 (4), 248-254
DOI 10.1093/jat/bky003, PubMed 29409046