While drunk driving has long been the leading cause of traffic-related fatalities, highway safety experts are increasingly voicing concerns over an increase in drugged driving. This growing vehicle safety threat stems from multiple causes that include more liberal marijuana laws that permit medical and even recreational use of pot depending on the state. The increase also reflects the wide use of opioids, sleeping pills, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications like allergy pills that make drivers drowsy or otherwise impair driving ability. If you or someone close to you suffers injury or dies at the hands of a drugged driver, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can explain your legal rights and discuss steps to preserve the value of your injury claim.
As negative stereotypes about marijuana use change with a growing number of states approving medical and even recreational use, drugged driving accidents can be expected to continue to become more prevalent. Approximately, 36 states and the District of Columbia had approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes as of May 2021. Further, 18 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana while 13 other states have decriminalized its use, which effectively amounts to legalization in the applicable states. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 12 million drivers admitted while impaired by marijuana during the previous year while another 2.3 million admitted driving after ingesting another drug that could impair driving ability.
These concerning numbers likely understate the problem for the same reasons that drugged driving poses a more difficult enforcement challenge than drunk driving. These reasons include:
- No reliable roadside drug test exists to measure the amount of THC (or other illicit drugs) in a driver’s system.
- Police often elect not to even test for drugs if a driver fails a blood alcohol test.
- Many drugs take days or weeks to clear the system impeding law enforcement efforts to determine whether and to what extent a drug impacted a person’s driving ability.
- Drivers frequently use multiple drugs or combine drugs and alcohol making it difficult to determine whether one or more drugs or alcohol most significantly contributed to a motorist’s impairment.
As marijuana use becomes more prevalent, fatal accidents caused by alcohol might one day outnumber drunk driving fatalities. One NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) report revealed that 43 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents had a drug other than alcohol in their system. These drug-related accidents exceeded the number of people who tested positive for alcohol in their system that were involved in a fatal collision (FARS 2016). While some pro-marijuana advocates contend that unlike alcohol THC does not impair driving ability, the NHTSA reports the drug impacts reaction time, estimation of distance, and coordination—all essential skills for safe driving.
If you have been injured or lost a family member in a collision caused by a marijuana-impaired driver, you should speak to an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you understand and pursue your legal options.
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