While the risks and liability of driving under the influence of alcohol are relatively well known, driving under the influence of drugs (both legal and illegal) can be a more complicated issue. This is unfortunate because, as a recent Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) publication points out, drugged driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. And it is also on the rise.
Statistics suggest the troubling role that driving under the influence of illegal drugs has begun to play in American life:
- 40% of drivers with fatal injuries who had a known drug test result tested positive for drugs. This is approximately the same rate as those fatally injured who tested positive for alcohol consumption.
- 22% of drivers in a recent roadside survey tested positive for drugs, according to the GHSA.
- 12.4% of drivers tested positive for illegal drugs in 2007; that percentage rose to 15.1% in 2013/2014
Whereas a negative stigma is attached to drunk driving, the general public seems to be indifferent toward the issue of drug impaired driving — apparently unaware of the life-altering consequences such behavior can have.
Why is drugged driving such a complicated issue?
Drugged driving is a complicated issue for many reasons. First, there is the sheer number of different kinds of drugs: 430 different substances in the national highway safety database. There are limited and straightforward tests to determine if a driver has been drinking, but a wide variety of different tests to be performed that would cover all of these drugs.
The crash risk for each of these drugs can vary, as do the behaviors associated with each drug: whereas marijuana slows driving speed and reaction time; amphetamines speed up driving time and cause drivers to pay less attention.
Whereas illegal drugs such as cocaine are obviously also not legal to take when driving, the situation with other drugs can also be different. For instance, it can be illegal to drive under the influence of otherwise legal medications such as sleeping pills or antihistamines. The culpability of those who have been approved to use marijuana for medical reasons may vary based, for instance, on the amount of the drug found in their system.
Liability issues of drug impaired driving
Specific laws regarding drug use and driving can vary from state to state. At least 15 different states have laws in which motorists will be charged with a crime if they have even trace elements of certain drugs in their system.
The GHSA suggests that police officers be trained to look for the signs of different kinds of drug influence, given that there is no straightforward breath test for drugs like marijuana, as there is for alcohol.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to the reckless behavior of a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the law affords avenues for legal compensation. To understand your options in the wake of car accident, the knowledgeable New Jersey personal attorneys of Eisbrouch Marsh offer free case evaluations. You can set up a private consultation by calling 201-342-5545.
- Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Drug Impaired Driving: A Guide for What States Can Do http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/2015drugged.html
- CNN, Driving While Drugged Now Just as Deadly as Drunk Driving http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/01/health/drugged-driving/