We tend to think of drugs as a self-inflicted danger, but new statistics indicate that drugged drivers are an increasing danger behind the wheel. Nearly 40% of drivers who were killed in accidents in 2013 were under the influence of some drug. That is up from 29% in 2005. Drunk driving has declined in recent years, but driving while impaired by drugs is increasing.
Several reasons can account for this, including the increased use of prescription drugs (quadrupled since 1999), the increased availability of marijuana, and the increased addiction to opioids. In the fatal accidents where drivers were tested, 34.7% were positive for marijuana and 9.7% were positive for amphetamines.
The Governors Highway Safety Association, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are sounding the alarms on this issue, calling for better public education and better laws, and we applaud that effort.
In the realm of Personal Injury Law, we see the implications of this problem every week. Serious car and truck accidents all to often include injury to other drivers and passengers who have done nothing wrong. We’ve helped clients who have suffered terrible neck injuries, head trauma, and serious leg and knee injuries that alter the trajectory of their lives, sometime requiring numerous surgeries and a lifetime of medical care. In some of the worst cases, we’ve represented families in wrongful death claims who have lost their loved ones to accidents they were in no way responsible for.
Some of life’s accidents cannot be avoided, but many can. We hope that the public, and lawmakers, will begin to treat this new scourge of drugged driving as seriously as they treat drunk driving. All of us need to take responsibility for knowing the impact of any prescription drugs or recreational drugs used, and to make sure that we don’t put others in danger when we are under their influence.