Drugged driving is on the rise, and it puts drivers, passengers, and others who share the road at risk.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pot and opioids cause nearly as many driver deaths as does alcohol. In their recently released report, Drug Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States, the GHSA cited a recent study that showed that in 2016, 44 percent of drivers killed in crashes tested positive for drugs, up from 28 percent a decade earlier. And among those who tested positive for drugs, 38 percent tested positive for marijuana, 16 percent had opioids in their system, and 4 percent tested positive for both marijuana and opioids.
While drunk driving still threatens American roadway safety, the number of drunk drivers killed in crashes dropped slightly over 10 years, falling from 41 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2016, according to the report that was funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
Other studies support the GHSA study’s conclusions about the dangerous increase in drugged driving. For example, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported alarming numbers concerning driving while drugged. According to the survey, in 2016, 11.8 million drivers aged 16 or older drove under the influence of illicit drugs at some point during the previous year.
It’s important to note that even these statistics might not reflect the extent of the drugged-driving problem. According to Jim Hedlund, author of the GHSA report and a former senior official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs.”
Preventing Drugged Driving
Many of the same techniques used to deter drunk driving could be used to deter drugged driving, according to the GHSA report. However, deterring drugged driving comes with its own, unique challenges.
For example, there is no single standard for testing drivers for drugs. Each jurisdiction has its own policies and procedures. Field sobriety tests are also problematic because different drugs affect individual drivers differently. Additionally, because there are such a large number of drugs to test for, it’s difficult to know exactly which drugs should be screened for in any given blood test.
Because of these difficulties, public health experts encourage people who are drug users to develop social strategies that will help them from driving while impaired, including:
- Choose a designated driver from among members of your social group.
- Have the designated driver hold everyone’s car keys.
- Discuss in advance with members of your social group the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs (or alcohol).
- Take a taxi or ride-sharing service to and from parties where drugs will be used.
Whenever any driver fails to use what the law calls “reasonable care” while operating a motor vehicle and their carelessness (such as driving while drugged or impaired) results in an accident, they could be liable for their passengers’ and the other parties’ injuries and losses. If you’ve been injured in such a vehicle accident because of someone else’s carelessness, you might be entitled to compensation.