An April 2017 report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR) has found that there were more motor vehicle fatalities related to drug use than alcohol use in 2015. This report, titled “Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States,” provides a detailed look into the realities of drug-impaired driving and sheds light on the current lack of protocol when it comes to testing for drug-impaired drivers in the United States. And while there has been some pushback on the findings of this report from law enforcement agencies and highway safety experts, most can agree on one sentiment: impaired driving is a serious problem on our roads—and more resources need to be put into addressing this fatal issue.
Specifically, the GHSA and FAAR report found that of deceased drivers tested, more than 40% of them were found to have drugs in their system compared to just 37% who tested positive for alcohol. This is the first time that instances of drug-impaired drivers surpassed the number of drivers who died in auto accidents while under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, the issue of drug-impaired driving is complicated. While all 50 states have laws in place that make driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs illegal, each state has its own respective laws governing what is considered to be “under the influence.”
For those with alcohol in their system, setting the legal bar is easy enough. In most states (Arizona being the only exception), a blood-alcohol level above .08% is considered to be over the legal limit. Unfortunately, determining the level at which a driver is considered drug-impaired isn’t as easy.
And contrary to popular belief, most police officers are not trained to recognize the signs of drug impairment on traffic stops. In most major departments across the country, only a handful of officers receive training to become a “drug-recognition expert.” While all officers receive very basic training in most academies, the truth is that unless the officer observes evidence of drug use in the car (such as visible paraphernalia or the odor of marijuana), there usually isn’t much valid evidence collection. While proving a driver is over the legal limit for alcohol is often as easy as having him or her take a breathalyzer, there is no comparable test for drug use.
The Bottom Line
Despite the fact that drug-impaired driving is thought to have caused more road fatalities in recent years than drunk driving, it’s still safe to say that any form of impaired driving is extremely dangerous. Further research needs to be done and technology needs to be developed to enact more uniform regulations regarding drug-impaired drivers and to keep them off the road. In the meantime, all drivers have a responsibility to know their limits and to never get behind the wheel of a car if they are even the slightest bit impaired. Unfortunately, since drugs and alcohol affect reasoning, this is often easier said than done. The only surefire way to avoid impaired driving (and the risks that come with it) is to avoid drugs and alcohol altogether.
Impaired driving will continue to be a problem for motorists in the United States, which is why having the right legal representation in the event of a traffic accident is so important. If you’re in need of legal guidance following an auto accident, contact Dan Carman & Attorneys, PLLC today.