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Drugged driving a greater concern than drunk driving

drugged driving car accidentOpioid addiction, drug use, and reliance on pain medication have come into the national and local spotlight as they claim more and more lives. A new study has illuminated another side of this issue: drugged driving is on the rise.

“The number of American drivers killed in car crashes in which drugs were detected has eclipsed those killed in crashes where only alcohol was found.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that 43% drivers killed in crashes tested positive for drugs, illegal and prescription, compared to 37% who tested positive for just alcohol.

Drugged driving is more complicated than drunk driving

The data in this study is imperfect.  The study only reflects drivers who were tested; not all drivers in all states get tested after a fatal crash; this doesn’t include fatal accidents in which the driver was not killed, and there’s no objective test for determining drug abuse. Still, the high number of drivers killed with drugs in their systems is cause for concern.

Drugged driving is a far more complex issue than drunk driving for a few reasons:

  • Unlike alcohol impairment, which can be determined by standard tests and breathalyzers, there is no standard roadside method for determining intoxication from drugs
  • Prescription, legal and illegal drugs affect users differently, so it’s difficult to say how much will cause impairment
  • Lawfully prescribed medications, even when taken as directed, can impair a user’s ability to drive; drivers may not know they are under the influence
  • Alcohol can enhance the effects of a drug or medication
  • Drugs taken in combination with alcohol or other substances  make it even harder to determine impairment

How to combat drugged driving fatalities?

The study highlights the need for education and awareness for law enforcement and the general public.  Law enforcement officers require further training on how to identify signs of drug use and intoxication that can be difficult to measure objectively. The GHSA and other safety groups also want to educate the driving public, designing campaigns similar to those used to combat drunk driving. While drunk driving still persists, most people know the dangers and recognize drunk driving as socially unacceptable. They know how many drinks will put you over the legal limit. They know to designate a driver or call an Uber if they plan on drinking.

Drugged driving presents more complexities, especially when dealing with illegal drugs. But, we can start by informing people, and correct common misconceptions. For instance, many people believe that legally prescribed drugs or marijuana have no effect on one’s ability to drive, and that simply isn’t true. By bringing this issue into the spotlight, our Scranton car accident lawyers hope to help reduce the number of drugged drivers on the road.

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