Is drugged driving the new drunk driving?
Drunk driving, one of the leading causes of auto accidents, is on a gradual decline, according to the NHTSA. Over the last few decades, drunk driving has been a topic of national concern. Heightened awareness, advancing technology, strict enforcement, and countless media campaigns have contributed to the 80% reduction in drunk driving since the first survey done in 1973. Unfortunately, we’re facing a new challenge as drugged driving is on the rise.
The NHTSA conducted a voluntary, anonymous study of 3,000 drivers involved in crashes over a 20 month period, and found that illegal and prescription drug use on the road has increased over the last seven years. The number of drivers with marijuana in their systems during nighttime weekend hours jumped about 50% since 2007. About 20% of drivers had drugs of some kind in their system on weekend nights.
Of course, our chief concern is whether, and to what extent, this type of drug use causes car accidents. But, determining that has proved difficult. According to the Washington Post, “The NHTSA conducted a second study to determine whether smoking marijuana increased the risk of crashes. They found that it did but, adding a caveat, said that pot smoking is most common among a group already at high risk for crashes: young men.”
This information presents a serious challenge for those concerned with highway safety. There is a big difference between alcohol impairment and drug use. Simply put, drug use and impairment is far more complicated.
We know that marijuana use impairs judgment, reaction time, and awareness, but there are many different types of drugs in question here, and there is not a great deal of data on how different drugs affect users’ driving abilities. While alcohol is more predictable in its effect on people, psychoactive drugs are chemically complex and affect individuals in different ways. For instance, a first-time dosage may have a much stronger effect than the same size dosage will after continuous use. Blood concentration levels do not necessarily correspond with impairment: detectable blood levels may exist after impairing effects have passed, or impairment may persist after the drug is no longer detectable in the blood. And, of course, different individuals will have different tolerance levels and reactions to different chemical combinations.
We now have an urgent need to better understand the effects of illegal and prescription drugs on highway safety. Next on the agenda will be more in-depth analysis of states like Washington where marijuana use is legal. We also strive to know more about the prevalence of drug use among commercial truck drivers, who sometimes turn to stimulants and amphetamines to stay awake while on the road.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact the car and truck accident attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys at 855-866-5529 today for a free consultation.
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