Drugged Driving Deaths Exceed Those Caused by Alcohol-Related Crashes
For years, the dangers of drinking and driving have been ingrained into our minds. We are encouraged to designate a sober driver, to take a cab or an Uber, and to alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. Now, a study shows that drunk drivers may not need to be our primary concern—and that drugged drivers may actually be responsible for more crashes.
The study, which was released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, examined fatal accident statistics from 2015. Almost half—43 percent—of the drivers tested were under the influence of drugs, both legal and illegal. Approximately 37 percent were under the influence of alcohol and tested above the legal limit. The number of drivers who caused drug-related crashes was 28 percent in 2005.
For the drivers who were positive for drug use, more than one-third was under the influence of marijuana. Approximately 9 percent had used amphetamines.
Ralph S. Blackman, the president of the nonprofit behind the study, commented, “As drunken driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically, and many of today’s impaired drivers are combining two or more substances.”
2015 was the first year in which drugged driving caused more deaths than drunk driving.
It is no secret that there are major drug problems in the United States, such as the opioid epidemic.
More than 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015. In comparison, 35,095 people died in traffic accidents.
The increase in crashes coincided with the legalization of marijuana in many states, though a direct cause has not been identified. Medical use of marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Seventeen states allow it for some medical uses, and in 21 states, using marijuana has been decriminalized. Recreational use is legal in 8 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
The report added citations from European studies that concluded that marijuana use slightly increased the risk of an accident, but amphetamines, opioids, and mixing alcohol with drugs significantly increased the risk of an accident.
However, in Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths went up by a whopping 48 percent after recreational marijuana was legalized.
Clearly, there is no straight answer on drug-related crashes. The author of the report, Jim Hedlund, said, “Drugged driving is a complicated issue. The more we can synthesize the latest research and share what’s going on around the country to address drug-impaired driving, the better positioned states will be to prevent it.”
States have enacted a 0.08 blood alcohol limit, but it is difficult to test for drug use, since a blood test is generally required. Additionally, drugs have different effects on different users.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated he will revive the war on drugs, including undoing an Obama administration policy that lessened prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
In Colorado and Washington State, which has also enacted legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, one survey showed that only a small percentage of drivers thought that marijuana use impaired driving. However, those surveyed believed drinking definitely impaired their driving.
Further adding to the complexities of drugged driving, many police officers do not have adequate training to identify whether a driver is under the influence of drugs. Additionally, delays in testing may lead to inaccurate drug test results.
Jonathan Adkins, the executive director of Governors Highway Safety Association, said, “As states across the country continue to struggle with drug-impaired driving, it’s critical that we help them understand the current landscape and provide examples of best practices so that they can craft the most effective countermeasures.”
Contact our New Jersey injury attorneys if you were you injured by a drugged or drunk driver
If you were injured, or if a loved one was killed by a drugged driver or a drunk driver, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. To schedule your free consultation with Leonard Legal Group, call (973) 984-1414 or visit us online.