A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association has shed some light on a growing safety hazard on our roads: drivers intoxicated by drugs are causing more accidents and fatalities than ever before. The problem only gets worse when you consider that many of the drugs which can cause impairment are not only legal, but readily available as over-the-counter medications.
In the year 2015, 57% of all drivers who were fatally injured in a car accident were tested for drugs. Of those tested, over 40% came back positive for some form of drugs. Perhaps the biggest offender was marijuana, which appeared in 36.5% of all drug-positive cases.
While many people are quick to point the finger at marijuana, which has become legal in some form in several states within just the last few years (including Washington in 2012), the study shows that all types of drugs, including prescription drugs, can have a negative impact. The study states “A large enough dose of most drugs can impair. The purpose of any drug is to affect physical or mental conditions in some way.”
Nonetheless, marijuana related deaths have spiked significantly. In the summer of 2009, Colorado relaxed the restrictions on who could cultivate marijuana. In the first six months of 2009, marijuana was present in 5.9% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes. By the end of 2011 that number had nearly doubled to 10%. Even here in Washington, the number of marijuana-intoxicated drivers is on the rise, with THC-positive drivers increasing from 14.6% to 19.4% within six months, and then up to 21.4% six months after that.
Understand the Risks
The study states that one of the biggest factors in this rise is that people do not understand the risk that driving while drug-intoxicated carries, and how similar it is to that of driving while drunk. The study cites a survey which shows that only 29% of drivers think that driving after using marijuana is a problem, as opposed to 64% who believe driving after drinking is an issue. Several other studies have shown that alcohol and drug-induced intoxication are not all that different in their impairment of your ability to drive.
The study lists five key conclusions about drugs and crash risk:
- Any drug may increase a driver's crash risk.
- The effect of any drug varies substantially between drivers.
- The effect of any drug increases as its concentration increases.
- Most illegal drugs may at least double a driver's crash risk.
- Some individual drugs multiple drugs, and drugs combined with alcohol increase crash risk substantially.
Law Enforcement has begun developing methods to crack down on those who drive while intoxicated by drugs of any sort, whether marijuana or any other type of drug, but a breath test for these types of drugs is still likely several years off. In the meantime, officers are focusing on training and developing better ways of finding and arresting drivers who are intoxicated by drugs to try to make the roads safer.
To read the study entirely, download the PDF here.
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Get in touch with me today! Call the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC at 888.252.1961 for a case evaluation if you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI.
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