Drugged Driving Leads to Accidents on American Roadways

Each day, many motor vehicle accidents occur on American roadways due to driving under the influence. Alcohol is often the source of impairment for these drivers. But many accidents are caused by drug use.

— Drugged Driving Laws—
Both state and federal laws specify how drugged drivers are penalized for their actions and how a claim against such drivers may apply. Each state varies in their own position against drugged driving, with some states being completely intolerant and others offering some leeway. Roughly one third of the nation’s states take a zero tolerance position. The variation from state-to-state causes confusion for many and substantial differences in how drugged driving cases may be pursued, as well as the outcome for victims.

In some states today, certain drugs once considered very dangerous have been legalized for medical or recreational use. This confuses the drugged driving liability issue even more. Each person’s body responds uniquely to drugs based on their individual chemistry, history of use, the type of drug, amount used, body size and other factors. States are struggling to find ways to regulate legal limits in balance with changing laws governing use of these drugs. Overall, the goal is to protect citizens on roads, something that may be easier said than done with rapid changes to legal drug use.

— Legalization Issues in Drugged Driving—
As laws are passed to legalize some drugs, fatal accidents from drugged driving increase, according to the Journal of Epidemiology. Results of 23,500 drivers were included in this study. The drivers were provided with a toxicology test no longer than one hour following involvement in a motor vehicle accident between 1999 and 2010. The study indicated 12 percent of fatalities from these auto accidents were related to impaired driving in 1999.

By 2010, 28 percent of fatalities were due to impaired driving. Marijuana was the cause of impairment in four percent of these accidents in 1999, with a change to 12 percent in 2012. One of every nine drivers in accidents with fatalities have been found to test positive for use of marijuana, according to the study. During the 11 year study, alcohol impairment rates remained consistent and did not show these marked increases.

Studies by other organizations have reflected the same results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 22 percent of drivers had consumed illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications. These results did not change from day to night driving. The most aggressive change in behavior of drivers related to the age group of 50 to 59 years, with those drivers increasing illegal drug use from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2010. About one quarter of fatalities due to drugged driving were due to drivers in this age range.

One survey revealed that one out of every six collegians drives under the influence of drugs each year, not including alcohol. This study was conducted in the year 2011.

— Drug Statistics—
46.5 percent of drugged drivers had used prescription medication, according to a nationwide study of fatal crashes in 2010. Among these drugged drivers, almost 37 percent had used marijuana and almost 10 percent used cocaine. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam and diazepam were the most commonly used prescription drugs by drivers. Not all of these uses of prescribed drugs were legal.

— Dangers of Drugged Driving—
People who drive while intoxicated with alcohol are 13 times more likely to cause a car accident with fatalities. Mixing alcohol and marijuana leads to a 24 times greater chance of a fatal car accident. Civil lawsuits often result due to loss of lives, serious injuries and the overall impact experienced by families due to these accidents. Drugged driving may also lead to criminal charges against drivers responsible for accidents. Impaired drivers can be fined, arrested, required to provide community service and even imprisoned.

— Preventing Drugged Driving—
Preventing drugged driving starts with not driving when taking medications or illicit drugs. Designated drivers are the easiest means of preventing these terrible accidents. When marijuana is being consumed, passengers should be careful to not expose drivers to second hand smoke. Those taking prescription drugs should discuss with their doctor whether driving is safe while using the medication. Prescription medications should never be used by anyone except those to whom the drugs are prescribed. Alcohol should never be mixed with medications or consumed during the same time period.

— Getting Help When Injuries Are Suffered—
When a drugged driving auto accident occurs, consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help provide direction toward filing a legal claim. Impairment leading to an accident is a possible criminal matter, as well. Anyone who believes their own impaired state may have led to an auto accident should immediately talk to a criminal lawyer.