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Will Drugged Driving Overtake Drunk Driving as a Leading Cause of Crashes?

For decades, we have learned about the dangers of drunk driving and the devastating impact it can have on the road: there were over 10,000 people killed by drunk drivers in 2016 alone. Recently, however, there has been a rise in a new threat that has impacted drivers across the country: drugged driving. A 2014 survey found that an estimated 1 in 4 drivers tested positive for a minimum of one drug that could impair their judgment.

Drunk driving has always been one of the greatest threats on our roads. But drug use by drivers is now becoming an equally troubling concern for safety advocates.

This form of impaired driving has been increasing, particularly with the rising opiate epidemic that has been seen in communities nationwide, as well as the movement toward legalized marijuana in many states. The rates have many officials concerned. If you have been impacted by people driving under the influence of these drugs, here is what you need to know.

What are the rates and suspected causes of the rise in drugged driving?

The rates of drugged driving have been rising quickly across the country. Between 1991 and 2014 the number of prescriptions given for opioids have increased fourfold. This mirrors the number of accidents officials have seen that involved drivers under the influence of these narcotics. Studies have indicated that the accident rate has increased sevenfold. This increase has attracted the attention of everyone from MADD to public health officials.

Sadly, many of these accidents result in deadly outcomes. According to a study conducted by researchers Stanford Chihuri and Dr. Guohua Li, the number of males killed in accidents while under the influence of prescription narcotics increased from 1 percent to 5 percent from the 1990’s to today. The rate for females increased from 1 percent to 7 percent in that same time period.

Drugs that are legal in certain locations, including marijuana, have also resulted in problems. After alcohol, cannabinol remains the most prevalent drug found by toxicology screens after fatal car crashes. Dr. Li has also been involved in studying the impact of marijuana on driver fatalities. California, for example, which legalized marijuana back in 2004, saw “marked increases in driver fatalities testing positive for marijuana,” according to Dr. Li. People living in the states where the use of this drug remains legal find that the drugs are largely regarded as safe. It is believe that this attitude likely contributes to people’s willingness to drive despite using it.

Overall, the rates of drugged driving have been increasing. In 1999, an estimated 16.6 percent of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for non-alcohol drugs, while in 2010, 28.3 tested positive. Everyone on the road needs to be aware of these frightening statistics. By 2020, non-alcoholic drugs are poised to overtake alcohol as a cause of traffic fatalities.

Are there any laws being passed to help curb this behavior and help victims?

Following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the state has worked to create at least basic laws to penalize those who drive under the influence. Currently, drivers who test positive for 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC can be charged with drunk driving, which hopefully will help discourage people from driving after using recreational or medical marijuana.

When it comes to opioids, however, much of the hope lies in the doctors prescribing the prescription painkillers. Officials believe that doctors need to do a better job of educating people who need legitimate prescriptions that the drugs can cause drowsiness and slower reaction times, which can lead to dangerous driving conditions.

What should people do if they have been victims of someone else’s drugged driving?

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s drugged driving, you may have a lawsuit. It is important to speak with lawyers experienced with personal injury law as soon as possible so they can help you review your case and gather any necessary documentation. Injuries resulting from drugged driving can be life-changing, resulting in chronic pain, hindering the ability to work, and otherwise impacting people’s quality of life. Taking care of the legal aspects of these cases as quickly as possible will help ensure that all documentation and witness accounts can be gathered while memories remain fresh.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence or recklessness is responsible for your injuries, the attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. can help. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout South Florida. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form to find out how we can help you.

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