NTSB Findings Point to Increased Drug Use Among Pilots in Fatal Accidents

When you get the sniffles, what remedy do you reach for first? If you are a pilot, you probably just thought, “Will I be flying any time soon?” Aviators are bound by strict rules that govern how they are able to medicate and treat many ailments, and the National Transportation Safety Board has found that many are not living up the standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration—at the risk of injury and death.

Drug Use in the United States

While most people tend to think of illicit drugs when it comes to dangerous behavior, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are much more commonly used in the United States, and the use of both have been on the rise in the United States.

Pilots have been at the center of an NTSB study that took place from 1990 to 2012, with investigators performed toxicology tests on pilots involved in fatal accidents. Because of the infrequency of fatal accidents among air carrier pilots, the study focused primarily on general aviation pilots. The findings, released earlier this month, found one very important thing: drug use among fatally injured pilots, both illicit and OTC, is on the rise and likely to increase.

Silent Dangers in Your Medicine Cabinet

More common among fatal accidents than illicit drugs, the real threat among the drugs that were potentially impairing was diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that appears in common sleep aids, allergy medications, and cold medications. The study did not set out to discover if these drugs were contributing factors to the crash, but one thing is for certain—the presence of these drugs in the systems of fatally injured pilots is steadily rising.

Also on the rise in the past decade is the number of pilots flying without a current medical certificate. These pilots were even more likely to be using potentially impairing drugs to treat certain ailments without the input of an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

Have You Been Injured by a Pilot That Misused Drugs?

The NTSB study concluded, among other findings, that the FAA’s communication with airmen about the safe and unsafe use of OTC and prescription drugs. This leaves the door open for a lot of confusion among pilots as to what may or may not be safe. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the ultimate responsibility to determine and maintain flight fitness still lies with the pilot in command.

If you have been injured by a pilot who misused potentially impairing OTC or prescription drugs, you deserve compensation for your damages. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Arizona aviation attorneys at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with a lawyer today.