Often times when we hear about impaired driving or driving under the influence, we assume it is alcohol-related. However, a report recently conducted by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association revealed that automobile accidents involving marijuana, opioids and other drug use have drastically increased in recent years, even surpassing alcohol related accidents. In 2016, alcohol was a factor in 38% of accidents involving fatalities, but 44% of drivers with fatal injuries had drugs in their system.
The report identified specific drug use in drivers who passed away in car crashes:
- 38% of drivers who passed away in car crashes tested positive for marijuana
- 16% tested positive for opioids
- 4% had both marijuana and opioids in their system
You’ve likely heard about the drastic increase in opioid use throughout the years, as well as prescription drug intake. This study supports those claims with data.
It can be more difficult for law enforcement officers to detect drugs in someone’s system than it is to identify alcohol use. Breathalyzers and blood tests are readily available to officials to detect alcohol use, but there is not yet a national agreement in place identifying how to test for drug impairment. While driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is illegal in all 50 states, testing practices vary amongst states, and the inconsistency of uniformed law makes it harder to detect drug impaired driving. Officers are being trained more thoroughly in detecting drug impairment in drivers, but it is still quite difficult compared to alcohol in many situations.
Another factor to consider is that various types of drugs can make people act differently, depending on genetics. Some drugs cause excitement, while others can bring someone down – but all drugs affect user judgment and reaction time.
Choosing to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any substance affecting sound judgment is extremely dangerous. The numbers don’t lie – driving under the influence heightens the risk of auto accidents exponentially. No one is exempt from the effects of intoxicated driving. We urge readers to always use proper judgment when operating a vehicle, and understand that responsible decision-making could be the difference between life and death.