Different studies show driving under the influence of drugs such as marijuana are on the rise in the United States and could be the cause in a number of fatal accidents. In addition to recreational drugs, prescription drugs could also cause a person to be impaired or incapable of driving safely. According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the percentage of drivers who tested positive for marijuana or illegal drugs rose from 12.4 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2013 and 2014.
This data came from voluntary roadside surveys conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report also noted that 38 percent of those who died in auto accidents in 2013, and who were tested, had detectable levels of potentially impairing drugs in their system. The most common drugs were marijuana (34.7 percent) and amphetamines (9.7 percent).
Cause for Concern
Drunk driving is still a huge problem in Rhode Island as it is in the rest of the country. However, most communities have measures in place to curb drunk driving. For example, local law enforcement agencies patrol near bars and restaurants to catch drunk drivers. On the other hand, there is not much enforcement when it comes to drugged drivers despite the increase in the number of drivers who operate their vehicles under the influence of legal and illegal drugs.
Why are the numbers of drugged drivers rising? Experts say increases in marijuana use could be one reason. Another reason could be the substantial increase in the use of prescription painkillers. Recent statistics show that in addition to marijuana and amphetamines, other drugs commonly detected in people killed in accidents are the prescribed pain medications hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Increase in Drugged Driving Accident Risk
Some experts believe that drug use significantly increases the risk of a crash. Certain medications and marijuana can slow attention and reaction time. Alcohol and amphetamines on the other hand can make drivers speed up and pay less attention to the road. Safety experts say law enforcement officers should be better trained and equipped to recognize the types of impairment associated with different legal and illegal drugs.
Of course, there is no simple breath test to detect drugs in a driver’s system as there is for alcohol. Still, officers could look for physical and behavioral signs that point to drugged driving. With more drivers using drugs such as marijuana and prescription painkillers, it is important to put enforcement measures in place to protect everyone using the road.
If You Have Been Injured
If you or someone you know has been injured by drugged driver, contact one of our experienced Rhode Island car accident lawyers at d’Oliveira & Associates. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering, among other losses. No fees are received unless you win your case. For a free (no obligation) case evaluation, call us toll free at 1-800-992-6878 or fill out our contact form online.