Drugged Driving Auto Accident Fatalities Surpass Drunk Driving Fatalities

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently conducted a national study which concluded that drugs were present in a staggering 43 percent of fatally injured drivers in 2015. By comparison, alcohol was present in 37.3 percent of the fatally injured drivers. While most all drivers know about the dangers of drinking and driving, information on drugged driving has yet to attain the same level, and rarely carries the same level of stigma. Drinking and driving accidents led to designations of a sober driver for events where there was likely to be alcohol. Unfortunately, this same level of awareness regarding the dangers of drugged driving simply does not exist.

Why Drunk Drivers are Easier to Identify Than Drugged Drivers

The director of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety, David Pabst, believes the difference lies in the fact that identifying a drug-impaired driver is much more complex than identifying a drunk driver. Breathalyzers and blood tests are commonly used to identify drivers with a blood alcohol content which is above the nationwide legal limit of 0.08. In general, alcohol tends to affect most people in approximately the same way.

There is a lowered reaction time, and the drunk driver may have bloodshot eyes and could slur his or her words. Police officers look for driving behaviors such as weaving, erratic braking, slow response to traffic signals, driving slower than 10 mph below the posted speed limit, driving into opposing traffic, almost striking an object, curb or vehicle, tailgating, and driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles to identify a drunk driver. Drugs, however, tend to affect every person in a different way, making it much more difficult for police officers to identify a drugged driver, and even more difficult to prove in court.

Further, there are literally hundreds of drugs which can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle, including over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, legal drugs and illegal drugs. Every individual will respond differently to these various drugs, and the driving/drug laws from state to state vary significantly. Law enforcement face difficulties in detecting drugged driving, plus there is no current framework of roadside testing and legislation in place regarding drugged driving.

Related Reading: Teens May be More Likely to Drive Distracted

What Drugs are Drivers Using?

More than a third of drivers killed in vehicle accidents tested positive for marijuana use, while amphetamines were found in the systems of nearly ten percent of drivers killed in an auto collision. It is important to note that Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance stated we should not be quick to blame the rise in drug-related traffic deaths on the relaxing recreational and medicinal marijuana laws across the country, since the drug can remain in a person’s system for weeks.

In other words, just because a third of the drivers killed in vehicle accidents tested positive for marijuana, this in no way means they were actually under the influence of marijuana at the time of the collision. The 2017 Drug-Impaired Driving report distinguishes between over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, legal, non-medical drugs, and illegal drugs such as hallucinogens, depressants, stimulants and narcotics. The 18-25-year-old age group of drivers were more likely to test positive for alcohol and/or drugs than any other age group.

Limitations of the Study

There are further limitations to the data in this recent study, primarily because the foundation only collected state-reported data, and the states varied considerably in how often drug tests were used and what substances were tested for. As an example, nine of the states tested 85 percent or more of the fatally injured drivers in 2015 for evidence of drugs, while two states tested only 15 percent or less. Further, the data records only the presence of drugs, not the amount of drugs, therefore it is impossible to compare to an equivalent BAC. In the end, drugged driving is a very complex issue, requiring much more research.

Contact Our Milwaukee Car Accident Lawyers

The Logo for Milwaukee Brain Injury Attorneys Aiken & Scoptur, S.C.If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident by a drugged or drunk driver, you need to have an experienced and aggressive lawyer on your side from the start. At Aiken & Scoptur, S.C., we work with credible expert professionals to investigate and document drunk driving accident cases.

Our Milwaukee car accident attorneys are dedicated to getting clients the full compensation they deserve. We take all personal injury cases on contingency, so you will not pay us a fee unless we help you obtain money damages. To discuss your case with an experienced trial lawyer, call us at 414-914-2803 or contact us today. We represent clients throughout the state from offices in Wauwatosa and Wild Rose.





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