One would think that after the decades of public safety campaigns dedicated to raising awareness of the risks associated with driving under the influence of intoxicating substances, the hazards of driving under the influence of drugs would be readily apparent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the dangers of drugged driving, not all American motorists have received the message.
Drugged driving is on the rise in the United States: annual drugged driving fatalities now rival the number of deaths attributed to drunk driving. Breathalyzer tests, a standardized level of alcohol impairment, and robust DUI laws make it relatively easy for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to hold drunk drivers accountable. However, it's more difficult—and, in some cases, nearly impossible—to hold drugged drivers to the same standard.
Read on to learn more about drugged driving and the challenges it poses for law enforcement, as well as what you can do if you were injured in an accident caused by a driver who was on drugs.
What Makes Drugged Driving So Dangerous?
The effects that drugs have on the body vary dramatically by substance. Many drugs cause impairments that might potentially lead to serious car and truck accidents. For example, drugs can:
- Reduce coordination
- Slow reaction time
- Make it difficult to accurately judge time and distance
- Cause motorists to be aggressive or reckless
- Make drivers dizzy or drowsy
Any of these impairments could easily lead to tragedy for the drugged driver and other motorists.
Drugs Associated With Drugged Driving
Although illicit recreational drugs are what most people think when they hear the term drugged driving, that perception isn't entirely accurate. While recreational street drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine are among the drugs commonly found in drugged drivers' systems, not all of the drugs responsible for drugged driving hazards are illegal.
For example, alcohol is the most common drug found in the systems of motorists involved in accidents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Prescription drugs—such as prescription opioids—also play a significant role in drugged driving crashes. Even seemingly harmless over-the-counter products such as cold and allergy medicines can seriously impair motorists.
Drugged Driving Statistics
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every four American drivers has over-the-counter medicines, prescription medications, or illegal drugs in their systems.
- Ten million people aged 12 or older admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the previous year, reports the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
- According to NSDUH findings, men are more likely than women to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Young adults 18–to– 25 are more likely to drive after drinking or doing drugs than adults 26 and older.
- According to a 2010 nationwide study, 47 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for drugs were on a prescription medication, compared to 37 percent who tested positive for marijuana, and approximately 10 percent who tested positive for cocaine.
- Pain relievers are the most common prescription drugs involved in drugged driving cases.
- According to a 2015 report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 43 percent of motorists who died in fatal crashes had drugs in their system, compared to 37 percent of motorists with blood alcohol concentration levels above the legal limit.
DUI Enforcement Challenges
The biggest barrier to the enforcement of DUI laws in drugged driving cases is there isn't a standardized level of impairment for illicit or prescription drugs.
Additionally, a lack of research on the effects of drugs such as marijuana make this problem even more pronounced. Marijuana can be detected in blood, urine, and hair for weeks or months after consumption—long after the impairing effects of the drug have worn off. This means blood or urine tests that detect marijuana might be less than helpful when determining which drivers currently pose a threat to others on the road.
Were You Injured by a Drugged Driver?
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drug-impaired driver, you may be eligible for compensation for injuries and other damages. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a legal professional.