Drugged driving may soon overtake alcohol impairment as the leading cause of deadly car crashes in the United States. The rising use of opioids and legalized cannabis products has already resulted in a significant increase in the number of accidents caused by drugged drivers. While the dangers of drunk and distracted driving are well documented, the hazards of opioids and marijuana on driving are a relatively new phenomenon. As the opioid epidemic rages and marijuana becomes mainstream, motorists need to stay alert if they want to stay alive.
Drugged Driving Deaths Spiking
The number of drugged driving fatalities is rising as more states legalize cannabis products. Coupled with the rising rates of opioid abuse, legislators and law enforcement is rushing to get the upper hand on drugged drivers. In 2016, 44% of fatally injured motorists tested positive for drugs. This is a 50% increase over the number of drugged driving deaths recorded just a decade ago. In 2017 about 12.8 million drivers admitted to driving under the influence of illicit narcotics. The greatest number of impaired drivers were adults aged 21 to 25 years old. In 2016, approximately 19.7% of drivers who drove under the influence of drugs had consumed a prescription medication.
Of those who had drugs in their system, more than 50% tested positive for marijuana, opioids, or both. Similarly, about half had alcohol in their system. This shows that many drivers are using a combination of intoxicating substances simultaneously which increases their risk of causing a fatal motor vehicle accident.
One problem law enforcement is struggling with is the fact that it is not easy to test drivers for the presence of drugs when they are pulled over. Moreover, because these drugs can remain in the system for extended periods of time, testing limitations mean that it is difficult to determine whether or not the individual was truly impaired at the time of an accident.
Dangers of Drugged Driving
Opioids, marijuana, and many other drugs impair a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. These drugs slow reaction times, impair judgment, result in daydreaming/distractions, and can reduce coordination. These drugs can also cause drowsiness and impair cognitive functions to the point where the motorist is entirely incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.