John R. Fuller P.C.

1736 Race Street
Denver, CO 80206

(303) 597-4500

Is Drugged Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?

pot-in-jar-smSince the advent of the motor vehicle, drunk drivers have plagued our streets and highways. But now, a federal report tells us a new threat is becoming increasingly prevalent- drugged driving. Even you may have even driven under the influence of drugs – and not even been aware you were impaired. But what exactly is considered drugged driving, and is drugged driving as dangerous as driving drunk?

Consider this:

Jon injured his back in a flag football game over the weekend. On Monday, he could barely get out of bed because his back hurt so much. Unfortunately, taking the day off of work wasn’t an option for Jon. In order to make it to work, Jon took a pain pill prescribed by his doctor – as well as a muscle relaxer. On the way to work, Jon felt sluggish and foggy. As a result, he ran through a red light and hit a pedestrian crossing the street. He claimed he never even saw the pedestrian – but in reality, Jon was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident – and should have never been driving in the first place.

Just How Dangerous is Drugged Driving?

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently released a report outlining the issue. Among the reasons given for this growing epidemic are a 4x increase in use of prescription medications since 1999 and the legalization of marijuana use in several states. The GHSA study determined that nearly 40 percent of the fatally injured drivers who were tested for drugs, had them in their systems at the time of the accident. That is alarmingly similar to the number of drivers killed who had alcohol in their systems. Using federal crash data, the report also indicated that the number of fatally injured drivers with drugs in their systems increased from 29 percent in 2005 to 39.9 percent in 2013. Referencing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) roadside surveys, the report asserts that illicit drug use and prescription drug use have escalated over the past five years. Executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins would like to see the federal government address the issue of drugged driving in the same manner drunk driving and seat belt use have been handled. He believes strategies for reducing drugged driving must also be implemented on a state level, and encourages the NHTSA to establish a protocol for doing so. In some form, marijuana use is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Several other states are currently considering legalization. In every state it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana, but drivers still routinely drive after smoking or consuming marijuana. Interestingly, the GHSA mentioned three additional sources with differing conclusions on the link between traffic fatalities and changes in marijuana laws. One source determined that the presence of marijuana increased in only three of the fourteen states studied. The second, a Colorado-focused study, found only a four percent increase in the number of marijuana-positive fatalities. A California study determined no changes since the legalization of marijuana in 2011. Further Reading: What is the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim The GHSA report concluded that state legalization of marijuana most likely increases drivers’ use of marijuana, and that marijuana is the drug most frequently found in roadside surveys and in fatally-injured motorists. The report went on to discuss the dangerous synergistic effects to drivers of combining drugs and alcohol. According to surveys performed in Colorado and Washington State, drivers there felt that marijuana use did not impair their ability to operate a vehicle, and in some cases actually improved it. They feel it is safer to operate a motor vehicle after marijuana use than after drinking, and that they can counteract the effects of marijuana by making certain concessions. The GHSA believes the problem can begin to be addressed through better officer training and use of a simple and inexpensive saliva testing device to identify high drivers.

Contact our Denver Car Accident Attorneys

Denver Car Accident Attorney John R. Fuller and His StaffIf you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident with a drugged or drunk driver, the law is on your side. You have a legal right to seek compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Our Denver car accident attorneys have the resources and the experience to help you. Contact the Denver Law Firm of John R. Fuller, P.C. today at 303-597-4500 for a free initial consultation.