Drugged driving is on the rise, especially with teenagers and young adults. It’s all the more vital for parents to pay close attention to the signs of drug or alcohol use. A recent report published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed 1 in 6 college students have driven under the influence of a drug other than alcohol.
Marijuana is the most common drug used, followed by cocaine and prescription pain relievers. There has been a shocking increase in marijuana-related accidents since the legalization of the drug in some states.
Many argue that drivers are not being educated enough on the dangers of drugged driving. As a result, too many people underestimate their cognitive abilities while under the influence of legal and illegal drugs.
What Is Drugged Driving?
We all know about drunk driving. It’s operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol to the point your blood-alcohol level exceeds the legal limit. Almost everyone can tell you the exact number of the legal limit. But what is drugged driving? And how is it measured?
Like drunk driving, drugged driving is a DWI offense. Driving while intoxicated (DWI), isn’t as widely understood as alcohol, but it is similarly unsafe. It poses a serious danger to the intoxicated driver, passengers, others on the road, and bystanders.
Drugs debilitate a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. When under the influence of drugs, many of the driver’s faculties can be affected:
- Attention span
- Physical function/motor skills
- Cognitive ability, such as judging distances
- Reaction time
Driving a vehicle requires utilizing every one of these capacities. But drugged driving affects most of them simultaneously.
How is Drugged Driving Measured?
With drunk driving, officers can administer breathalyzer tests to determine their level of impairment. There is no such test for drug levels. Problems also arise in measuring how drugs impair drivers:
- No good roadside test for drug levels exist
- Some drugs stay in a person’s system for days or weeks after use, making it difficult to determine its effect on the driver’s ability
- Many drivers who cause drugged-related accidents often have both alcohol and at least one drug in their system
In fact, there was a 16% increase in the number of drunk drivers who also tested positive for drugs from 2006-2016.
Increase in Drugged Driving Deaths Due to Recreational Marijuana
Our nation’s disposition has unquestionably changed concerning drug use over recent years. Numerous states have decreased criminal penalties for marijuana use or even legalized it. States that have legalized marijuana have experienced huge spikes in drugged driving deaths, and those numbers continue to rise.
In North Carolina, NCDOT reported drugged driving in 2014 resulted in 1,342 crashes, 21 fatalities, and 753 injuries. Incidents of drugged driving have only increased since then. The next updated report on drugged driving is expected to have even higher casualties.
Narcotics and Other Illicit Drugs
The National Survey of Drug Use and Health latest survey shows 10 million adults and teenagers confessed to driving while affected by illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, prescription medications and tranquilizers for which they don’t have a prescription. Regardless of whether a drug is prescribed by a doctor, narcotics such as Vicodin, morphine, OxyContin, and codeine can lead to a DWI charge.
Narcotic use can cause lethargy, paranoia, drowsiness, and reduced concentration. Consolidating narcotics with different drugs or alcohol can escalate the impacts and lead to loss of consciousness or even death. Drivers who use these kinds of medications without a prescription compound their risk of getting in trouble with the law both for a DWI and illegal possession of narcotics.
Drugged Driving Demographics
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) also addresses different demographics of drugged drivers. Men are more likely than women to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers aged 21 to 25 are the most likely to drive after taking drugs or drinking, but a significant number of teenage drivers do as well.
However, older adults are at a greater risk of unintended intoxication. Mental decline in older adults can lead to improper use of prescription drugs, especially if they accidentally double dose. Older adults may also take longer to break down the drug in their system.
How to Prevent Drugged Driving?
Just like drinking and driving, public health specialists urge individuals who use drugs and alcohol to create social strategies to keep them from getting in the driver’s seat of a car while impaired. Steps individuals can take include:
- Discuss the risks of drugged driving with your kids and friends ahead of time
- Designate a sober driver
- Offering to be a sober driver
- The designated driver takes all car keys from partakers
- Hire a taxi or use a road-share App for a safe ride
- Always err on the side of caution: if you think you may be impaired, do not drive!
As you may notice, the precautions are very similar to that of drinking before driving. The rise in drugged driving, therefore, may be more of an issue of increased availability and ignorance than strategy.
Why is Drugged Driving on the Rise?
Drugs are the number one cause of accidental deaths and injury in North Carolina. There is a nationwide surge of opioid use and marijuana use. Increased availability leads to more abuse, which leads to more accidents. Underestimating the effect of drugs is also endangering people. Too many people are under the false impression that drugs given as a prescription must not be “that bad.” Marijuana users are adopting the same mentality since the legalization of marijuana in many states.
Drugged driving is a critical public safety threat. Death tolls are rising with no end in sight. To keep yourself and others safe, we need to spread awareness of the dangers of drugged driving.
If you or a loved one were involved in a drug-related accident, you might be entitled to compensation. We can help you bring drugged drivers to justice. If you live in Buncombe County, NC, or the surrounding areas, contact the Asheville car accident lawyers at Fisher Stark, for a free consultation.