The Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility recently released startling statistics on the rise in drugged driving fatalities. According to their latest research, 43 percent of all driving fatalities reported in 2015 were caused by drugged drivers compared to 37 percent caused by drunk drivers. The latest study was the first-time drugged driving was responsible for more fatalities than alcohol.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was used to identify impaired drivers involved in fatal car accidents. Drugged drivers included all those who tested positive for illegal, prescription, and over the counter medications. In the 43 percent of drivers testing positive for drugs, 36.5 percent tested positive for marijuana, and 9.3 percent tested positive for amphetamines. Researchers involved in the study suggest that legalization of marijuana, the use of medicinal marijuana, and the current epidemic of opioid addiction could be responsible for the rise in drugged driving fatalities, though a direct link could not be determined.
The steady increase in the number of drugged driving fatalities indicates that more research and education are warranted. According to officials at the NHTSA, many people are under the misguided assumption that marijuana does not impair a driver as much as alcohol. Ongoing research shows that marijuana significantly impairs a driver’s reaction time and focus. What is yet to be determined is what level of marijuana leads to dangerous driver impairment.
Police departments across the country are making increased efforts to educate their law enforcement officials on how to detect drugged drivers. Breathalyzers are a valuable tool to assist officers in apprehending drunk drivers, but yet, no test can reveal the presence of illegal, prescribed, or over the counter medications. Officers could rely on the smell of marijuana in the past to detect the presence of the substance in a car, but now that other forms of ingesting the drug are available, its presence is not easily detected.
The epidemic of opioid use and addiction across the country is suspected of contributing to the rise in drugged driving as well. Opioid users typically lose focus on how much the drugs affect their cognitive and neurological functioning. As their usage increases, the residual effects can result in impaired driving. Although these drugs are legally prescribed by many physicians, those addicted to the opioids often resort to purchasing them illegally to maintain their level of addiction and the affect of the drugs. Testing on the level of the drugs in a driver’s system takes time and cannot be detected at the scene when law enforcement suspect drugged driving.
While the recent study conducted by the GHSA and FAAR shows a distinct rise in the amount of drugged driving fatalities, more research is needed. The latest study was based on what individual states reported to the NHTSA. Not all states currently test all drivers involved in fatal car accidents for drugs.
A car accident involving a drugged driver can have devastating consequences. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident involving an impaired or otherwise negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger at 1-800-222-8792, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.