As drug overdose numbers continue to climb and more states move to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, a new report has been released that indicates a shift from drunk driving to drugged driving as the leading impaired accident cause across the entire county, reports CNN.
This report comes from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association and its Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, which is a nonprofit that is funded by alcohol distillers, and it has been the subject of some contention. Some safety experts are urging caution, taking the position that drunk driving is still the bigger threat and calling for more research into this area.
According to the released report, there were more positive drug tests than test results showing the presence of alcohol among the drivers who were killed in accidents in 2015. Of those drivers tested, 43 percent had drugs in their system at the time of their fatal car accident. This figure surpassed the 37 percent of drivers who died in accidents and tested positive for alcohol over the same time period. Highway Safety North independent safety expert James Hedlund noted that this report demonstrated that this was the first time there were more fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs than alcohol.
Impairment Remains an Unclear Area Nationwide
Driving while impaired is illegal in all 50 states, but the laws and interpretations of impairment vary. Testing also differs by state, and there are no uniform regulations that determine when testing is used and what drugs should be screened for. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration currently tracks 400 drugs, and of those, marijuana accounted for 35 percent of the positive report tests. Amphetamines made up 9 percent of the substances found via testing, and over half of the other positive tests were caused by a myriad of different drugs. Amphetamine use in general is a troubling trend in the US, so this number may climb in the future.
There are currently no drug field tests for law enforcement officials to use that are comparable to using a breathalyzer to detect alcohol. Officials are trained to spot signs of drug impairment and can take a driver into custody if they feel further testing is needed. Generally, a complete assessment for drug use by a driver can’t be made on the side of the road.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader has stated that alcohol is still the primary concern. He said that he is unsure about the report’s findings, particularly because this area of research is relatively new whereas there is a lot of data available on drunk driving. He also expressed concern that this new report could take away from the efforts to curb drunk driving and shift funding toward drugged driving instead, an issue he says that no one is sure how to address in an effective manner yet.
If you or someone in your family has been harmed by the actions of an impaired driver, speak to an experienced Denver personal injury lawyer today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Office of Richard Banta Law, P.C. for their insight into drugged driving cases.